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Ford became the first car manufacturer to launch a new car at Europe’s biggest gaming show Gamescom in Germany in August 2018. It makes sense giving that the vehicle dubbed the ‘Bad-Ass Ford Ranger Raptor’ will feature in the new Forza Horizon 4 video racing game.

A dramatic new video of the Ford Ranger Raptor in action. Credit: Ford

It’s not the first time that the entertainment industry reference automotive brands. Conversely, many fictional products inspired real-life development. We revisit some of the favourite mobility references in pop-culture.

There are plenty of real vehicles that made their way on screen and became stars of their own. While some became famous or infamous, others re-ignited the interest to the classics. Let’s not forget that the motor passion fuelled the creation of many popular TV shows, films and games too.

Segway in ‘Arrested Development’
Not all publicity is good publicity. Segway was heavily featured in cult TV series ‘Arrested Development’. Unfortunately, it was favoured as a preferred transportation mode for the cringe-worthy character G.O.B. Bluth who frequently became a butt of the joke for riding Segway. Talk about negative brand affiliation.

Ford Mustang in ‘Bullitt’
Steve McQueen’s critically and commercially acclaimed film Bullitt made Mustang famous. The spectacular high-speed car chase through the streets of San Francisco was integral to the movie and is considered to be one of the most influential, still studied by the film students.
50 years on, Ford unveiled the third tribute to the classic – $50,000 Bullitt Mustang which still hasn’t lost its allure with fans. In a meta twist, the Mustang went on to feature in several TV series and movies and games as a tribute to the Bullitt.

Vespa in ‘Roman Holiday’
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck roaming the picturesque streets of Rome on Vespa became one of the most iconic and aspirational scenes in film history. The classic Italian scooter became a third lover in this romantic love story. More than half a century later, Vespa remains one of the most stylish and recognisable vehicles. New Vespa Elettrica range is updated with electric mobility technology inside a classic design.

Harley Davidson, ‘Sons of Anarchy’
On the other side of the spectrum is the hit TV series ‘Sons of Anarchy’ inspired by the Hells Angels motorcycle club. It is fair to say that the variety of Harley Davidsons featured on the show became important characters of their own.

‘Fast and Furious’
Another example where the subject of cars fuelled a basis for the mega action franchise. Ford Mustang was also featured here, along with a sleuth of cars, far too many to mention. Amongst the most notable ones were W Motors Lykan Hypersport dubbed as the first Middle Eastern supercar; Jensen Interceptor built by the British Jensen Motors; Toyota Supra in the iconic scene of the first movie; Mazda RX7; Nissan Skyline GT-R; Dodge Charger – the list goes on and on.

Inspiration worked the other way round too. What started life as a figment of imagination of writers and filmmakers went on to fuel development of real products.

Humans have always fantasised about flying. No wonder that air commuting concepts proved to be the most alluring to recreate, but there are also occasional underwater and interstellar ones that left its mark.

The Magic Carpet
One of the oldest fictional form of air transportation was the flying carpet featured in many folk tales across the world but the Middle Eastern fairy tale ‘Aladdin and the Magic Lamp’ from ‘The Book of One Thousand and One Nights’ became the most recognisable after the Disney’s adaptation. The legendary magic carpet was the original autonomous vehicle instantaneously and effortlessly taking its passengers to any destination.

Fast forward to 2015. Video bloggers Jesse Wellens and Casey Neistat pranked New Yorkers by recreating Aladdin’s flying carpet ride. While the “carpet” didn’t actually fly – it was a clever illusion based on a hidden skateboard – the result was pretty spectacular. Nearly 23 million views on YouTube prove that the old tale is still powerful enough to captivate tech-savvy millennials.

Hoverboard in ‘Back to the Future’
80-s produced another fictitious form of transportation that made generations of fans to look forward to the future – a flying skateboard called Hoverboard from the Back to the Future trilogy. We are still far from flying freely like Marty McFly but several companies are edging closer to making it a reality. Lexus’ SLIDE hoverboard and Hendo Hover use the technology of the magnetic field which looks like the closest thing to the movie one but it has a limited range and requires a custom-built skate park. Flyboard is another manifestation of a hoverboard. Zapata’s Flyboard Air is a jet-powered vehicle capable of flying for 12 minutes. Similarly, Omni Hoverboard uses a propeller like a drone.

DeLorean in ‘Back to the Future’
Another iconic vehicle immortalised in Back to the Future was the DeLorean sports car featured as a fictional flying time machine in a form of an automobile with iconic gull-wing doors. We might not be able to travel in time any time soon but urban flying concept is close to become a reality. A growing number of companies are getting ready for a new era of air transportation from US Uber to German Volocopter to Chinese Ehang to name the few. They look less of a car and more of a helicopter called VTOL – Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircrafts – but functionally, they will provide a familiar taxi service, albeit over air.

Volkswagen Beetle aka Herbie in ‘The Love Bug’
The beloved Herbie the Love Bug, an intelligent character in a form of a car, had a mind of its own and could talk, think and drive itself. In the 60’s, when the movie was released, it was as fictional as any fairy tale. Now it doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Talking to your car is no longer crazy. With developments in Artificial Intelligence, IoT and Voice Recognition, cars are starting to resemble sentient beings.

Hyundai and Kia will reportedly install a different assistant from the Korean AI company Kakao starting from September 2018. SEAT has begun to equip its new Leo and Ateca models with Amazon Alexa voice assistant software that can engage in dialogue, manage schedules and return requests on news, music selection, smart home controls and much more, all from inside the vehicle. Nissan, BMW, MINI and Toyota are also integrating Alexa into more and more models.

It is safe to say that pretty much all automotive brands are investing in AI technology. We are still far away from a fully intelligent car like Herbie but this Toyota’s Concept-I car might just become a real life Herbie in about 30 years from now.

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