Adrian Smith November 30, 2018

Cars have become icons of style, mobility and luxury. Design teams around the globe are creating concept vehicles for the future that will drive themselves. Icona started in  2010 in Italy and has now has grown to a global design company with 180 employees and studios, in Turin, Italy,  Shanghai, China and Santa Margarita, California. Auto Futures talked to Icona’s Global Design Director, Samuel Chuffart, at AutoMobility LA ahead of the North American debut of the Icona Nucleus.

“In the future of cars we have to reset our values and adapt to the needs of new technology such as Level 5 autonomous driving,” says Chuffart who sees autonomous cars as s more like a private yacht on wheels and draws inspiration for the Concorde airplane.

Chuffart previously designed concept cars for Nissan, was a Senior Designer at Jaguar Land Rover and then Chief Designer at Stile Bertone in Turin.

“There’s no longer a need for all the seats to be facing forward or for all the windows to be viewed forward,” says Chuffart. The nucleus has a semi-transparent window roof, in which the passengers can look out but still maintains privacy. The upper glass from the windscreen to the complete roof is asymmetrical, divided into fully transparent and semitransparent glass as part of the design. It has UV protection to keep out the harmful rays of the sun. 

When asked if the glass would make the vehicle too hot when sitting in the sun in hot climates. Chuffart replied that, in the future, cars can have controllable shading built into the glass to keep out heat or solar panels attached to a cooling system to keep the car cool when needed.

Chuffart believes that there will be fewer cars on the roads when families share the same vehicle.

“When we get to autonomous driving. There will no longer be a need for families to have three or four cars instead there can be one car to be used by all can. For example, the car can take someone to work, then take the kids to school and take Grandma to the store.”

The interior of the Nucleus is either a luxury hotel suite or workspace with all the accoutrements of a wet bar, infotainment system, laptop connections, wireless charging station, champagne holder and even a small greenhouse garden. The seats are super comfortable and can be configured for three to six passengers. The passengers can face the desk for working or other passengers.

While sitting near the Nucleus the wheels look huge, with good reason. The special wheels each have separate motors. The large tires are reminiscent of the Duesenberg with a modern touch. The car can be outfitted with special tires that will absorb bumps and make a smoother ride, “as if you are gliding.” Chuffart likens the car to the romantic era of travelling in the 1930s in cars with glamorous shapes. 

Chuffart says the angle of the vehicle allows it to fade away into the horizon. It’s very quiet and eco-friendly with electric batteries than be extended with hydrogen fuel to drive the electric motors.

The oyster roof opening pops open so that riders can get in easily and don’t have to duck for comfort.

The Icona Nucleus was designed by its California design team, “to show the mobility of after tomorrow, with a completely human-centered approach.” 

Design companies sign non-disclosure agreements and don’t reveal what automakers they design for. However, we overheard that several Icona designs will be launching in China in the near future.

“We are experiencing a new generation of design,” said Chuffart. He adds that they don’t want to automotive design to become like phones that all look the same.

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