(Pocket-lint) - The future is frighteningly fast, ferocious and full of potential. Car designers and enthusiasts are always looking for ways to innovate and come up with the next new design that'll change the future of the vehicles we drive. With the technology behind hybrid and electric vehicles coming on in leaps and bounds, the future of automobile design is exciting and only limited by our imagination and physics.
Imagine now, years into the future, when new advanced technologies make their way onto the race tracks of Le Mans or when all vehicles on the road operate autonomously. What will those cars look like? How will they operate?
To find out, we've looked back at a selection of the amazing winners and finalists from the last few years of the Michelin Design Challenge. Here, fans, designers and car enthusiasts were tasked to create new vehicles that meet specific requirements - win the Le Mans 2030, provide functional and affordable cars for everyone or create a vehicle that elicits pure driving pleasure.
"Design for the win" - Le Mans 2030
For the 2017 challenge, participants were invited to design a futuristic race car with innovative features and technologies that could win the 24-hour Le Mans races in the year 2030.
The results of this challenge are some slick and sophisticated looking vehicles with a promise of high-speed thrills.
Infiniti Le Mans 2030
With this design, Tao Ni, envisioned a safer future for the Le Mans race where automated technologies help support drivers by taking over at night and activating an auto pilot mode.
This would certainly represent an interesting change to motorsport when vehicles are racing themselves around the track in the dead of night while human drivers rest. This concept designed Infiniti is so sleek and futuristic, we can't even see the wheels.
Bentley 9 Plus Michelin Battery Slick
The Bentley 9 Plus Michelin Battery Slick is a design that not only boasts striking looks but also smart future technologies that sell themselves. The Bentley 9 is pitched as a driverless car with a VR cockpit which would allow a racing driver to control the car from remote safety and race without risk to their own life.
With the design, Daniel Bacelar Pereira, also tackles another issue with electric racing cars - the problem with battery power. So the Bentley 9 makes use of "Michelin Battery Slick" tyres which include battery technology right in the wheels so when the tyres are changed in a pitstop, the batteries are too. This sort of thinking keeps the cars racing for as long as possible.
Canadian designer, Kurt Scanlan, pitches some interesting uses of technologies in his design. Here the car features three main points of interest. Large vertical ailerons on the front use the wind to steer the car and help it "fly" around corners to improve speed and handling in bends with less tyre wear when braking. This is supported by electroactive polymers in the bodywork that change shape when a current runs through them.
The main highlight though, is the inclusion of rings of LEDs on the car which show spectators what the driver is doing and when, for example turning red when the driver is braking or blue when the car is accelerating.
With the Neuraura, the designers envisioned the future of Mercedes AMG racing to include some really bold innovations in racing and car technologies. Here the focus is on the driver, with a neurological connection between man and machine, so they can control the car with their mind.
A seated cockpit is replaced with a horizontally suspended position to reduce driver fatigue and enhance aerodynamics. Meanwhile, an augmented reality system allows the driver to see the road ahead.
Outside, a new lightweight bodywork material results in a tougher vehicle shell ensuring safety for all drivers. Wheels are also split into two parts with a strong camber to account for differing speeds and cornering to improve grip and stability. This one is really outside the box.
Another bold design that features scooping wings, negative camber and a decrease in overall body weight results in an insanely fast racing vehicle perfectly suited to winning the Le Mans race. Safety is also the name of the game here, with a breakaway cab designed to disconnect from the main body in the event of a serious vehicle crash and keep the driver safe.
A new fuel is imagined in the form of Hydrazine, a liquid fuel aimed at extreme speeds and compact onboard storage system to help minimise weight issues.
"Mobility for all"
In 2016, the Michelin Challenge Design gave participants the chance to create designs for vehicles that provide simple, functional and affordable mobility to an underserved area in Southeast Asia, Central America or Central Africa. This means vehicles capable of handling harsh environments, being easy to maintain and cost-effective.
Google Community Vehicle
Here, a simple farm vehicle is designed to cater to the needs of the locals of India. The design represents a modular vehicle which is easily adaptable to fit the specific requirements at the time - one minute it's a tractor helping to plough the fields, the next it's converted into an ambulance.
The small details have been considered here too. The wheels are a segmented design which means they can cope with the rough terrain. They can also be deconstructed with parts removed separately for repair, rather than replacing the entire wheel/tyre, thus reducing the maintenance costs.
The Arriero is a concept vehicle designed as a personal electric vehicle for the villagers of Colombia. The Arriero includes a modular and easily customisable design that allows the user to change the form of the vehicle to cater to their particular needs but also to allow for easy vehicle maintenance.
This clever design also includes things like airless tires that deform to account for unstable terrain resulting in less danger of punctures and flat tyres. The Arriero is also intended to be built with multiple racks for carrying loads of produce or other items the locals will need to easily transport. The result is a capable and useful vehicle, perfectly suited to the intended region.
One of the less ambitious vehicles on our list, but also one of the smartest is this raft designed for the people of the Philippines. People living in the Philippines regularly have to deal with the hardships that come with the "rainy season" and around 25 million of those people already live in floating homes due to residing in flood-prone regions of the Country.
This raft represents a smart use of technology combined with local and easily accessible resources. The design is intended so the front and back parts can be attached to bamboo canes to create a vehicle that's easy to maintain and even easier to use. A pedal system allows the user to control the raft while an onboard water filtration system provides them with fresh drinkable water during a period when polluted water is a big risk to their health.
Another simple design comes in the form of this oversized scooter with large wheels and basic controls. The Stator Scooter is intended to provide easy mobility for everyone with and easy-to-use keyless start system, speeds of up to 20mph and a range of up to 25 miles.
A powerful motor is housed in the rear wheel which drives the scooter and a regenerative braking system makes it efficient and effective as a means of transport. A wide tyre footprint and low tyre inflation also reduces the risk of puncture and allows stability over uneven surfaces. Plus, it looks like the Harley Davidson of the scooter world, so it's pretty badass.
The M-Clinic is a Volkswagen branded concept vehicle that's essentially a mobile medical clinic for the people of Africa. This compact vehicle is basically a small ambulance that would allow medical workers to deliver treatment to the people of the villages.
A high-mobility design includes magnetic wheels which can automatically transform shape to account for different terrain and landscapes the vehicle will have to handle. We love the design of this one though, from the photo, we're not sure the children running in terror are fans of this futuristic vehicle.
"Drive your passion"
In 2015, the Michelin Challenge Design required entrants to design a vehicle that would "elicit pure driving pleasure". Designers were asked to choose an iconic road, such as Khardung Pass (India), Highway 1 or Rubicon Trail (California), Ruta 40 (Argentina), Stelvio Pass (Italy), or Karakoram Highway (China) to create a vehicle best suited to that road and the ultimate driving pleasure.
Where most people might consider designing a hypercar for this challenge, Youngjai Jun took a different route. The result of his ideas was the Viento - part car, part land ship, inspired by the winding and windy roads of the Italian Alps.
"Sailing mode" is meant to give drivers a true experience of extreme driving by harnessing the power of nature with a man-made machine rarely seen outside the world's oceans.
The SIC Project, also known as the "Silent Interactive Climber" is a concept vehicle with the motto "slow is cool", so another design that shies away from speed and power as the necessary elements of an ultimate driving experience.
This is a vehicle intended to help the user get out of the big cities and explore the natural environments. A posture inspired by insects and an architecture that includes independent driving arms and four steerable wheels make this an all-terrain concept vehicle to reckon with. The design includes smart wheel and tyre technology to cope with rough terrain and keep on climbing.
Bugatti EB Liriom
Designer, Cristian Armando Polanco, chose to create this vehicle for the roads of the Italian Alps. An exotic sports car inspired by the old classics, with styles popularised in the 1930's mixed with modern Formula 1 designs. Fluid lines and organic shapes are the name of the game here, with a design aimed at offering superb aerodynamics while also oozing sublime style.
The Argo is a sleek-lined, aerodynamic beauty designed to cruise the 1,500-mile length of Route 40 in Argentina. Aircraft-like fins, active control surfaces, air-brakes and even a counteracting fan ensure this hypercar makes maximum use of airflow as it travels at high speed down the long open road.
The Argo is a two-seater sports car concept intended to offer high-speed, high-manoeuvrability and extreme driving pleasure.
The Rainmaster is a bonkers concept vehicle that's part car, part motorbike or, more correctly, two bikes. This car not only transforms into two separate motorbikes but also is capable of rotating on a robotic central axis to stand in a vertical position and offer more convenient parking options.
"Drive / Undriven"
The 2014 challenge asked participants to consider autonomous vehicles and how they might transform to meet a users' needs when they weren't being driven. The end goal being to create a vehicle that could become an extension of the users' lifestyle.
BOT is an autonomous concept vehicle designed to bridge the gap between cars and public transport by dealing with the inefficiencies of both by providing a new level of convenience.
BOT is envisioned as a vehicle that will come to your door and pick you up and take you to your place of work, while also picking up other passengers along the way. Ride sharing is intended to encourage users to meet new people while simultaneously cutting down on the waste of private car ownership. In the future, Chris Luchowiec imagines a world where no one will need their own vehicle.
The AKA24 is designed to switch between driven and undriven modes where the driver has control part of the time, driving the car as we normally would, but in "undriven" mode the vehicle makes use of magnetic rails and vertical positioning to become a train-like transport model.
The Gelenk is a futuristic truck that's more compact than its modern counterparts and is a modular vehicle capable of transforming to suit the needs of the operator. A long-distance vehicle with areas for the driver to rest, monitor transported goods and even change his clothes. The Gelenk also includes autonomous driving abilities to create an efficient and safe transportation system.
The Twinway is a concept vehicle intended to make the most of future autonomous driving technologies while combining them with radar and automatic detection systems all aimed at keeping everyone safe. This smart car is intended to be capable of detecting pedestrians, road signs, traffic lights and even the topography of the roads to ensure a safe journey for all passengers.
The design also breaks the norms by presenting a vehicle which includes no traditional front and back, but a car that's capable of travelling safely backwards as well as it would forwards. In autonomous driving mode, the seats face inwards to allow passengers to interact with each other with ease.
Duality is a concept vehicle designed to transform between a racecar and off-road vehicle. With a new concept of split tyres designed to give superb grip off-road and excellent traction on the race track.
A transparent roofing system gives passengers an unparalleled view of the road and the car is driven by motors within the wheels making it spacious and comfortable for all.
In 2013, the challenge asked participants to design a new vehicle with innovative technology to help shed weight without compromising safety or comfort. Weight reduction is the name of the game here and the finalists were able to display their designs at the North American International Auto Show.
The eLink is a design that takes inspiration from the humble bicycle wheel with a pre-stressed structure and tension cables to provide stability and support. With four electric engines and independent steering, the eLink offers much more than first appears to meet the eye.
Wheels that rely on spokes like a bicycle also help with the weight reduction and efficiency of the vehicle. An interesting concept indeed and capable of carrying six passengers too!
Another design that makes use of simple materials and technologies in order to meet the requirements of weight reduction. The PolyPlus uses vacuum formed aerospace spec carbonate plastic for the body of the vehicle, providing a strong, safe and lightweight frame that's capable of holding up to six people.
The Dolphin is a Mercedes Benz branded design with a futuristic feel. Unlike the other designs in this category, the Dolphin has a lot more form to it but uses lightweight materials such as a carbon fibre frame and transparent glass to combat issues of weight. The wheels are interesting too as they stretch across the whole of the vehicle rather than being four separate entities.
The bemoove is an interesting design. Like other cars that are built with a focus on weight reduction, this car uses carbon fibre to keep the body light and agile. The real point of interest here though is the bubble the passengers sit in. This cockpit is made from a high-pressure inflatable material that's strong and robust but ensures the vehicle is as light as it possibly can be. This is truly something from the future.
A lightweight carbon fibre frame supported by polycarbonate glass make up the body of this vehicle which would no doubt give the passengers a full, if not rather public, view of the road. Again, bicycle spoke-like wheels and a super thin tyre design give this car a futuristic feel but with traditional design elements.