One of the more inventive concept vehicles on display at this year's Geneva auto show is the City Car from the unfortunately named Assystem, which touts the project as a way of exploring "different thought strategies on the future of the city car." The most obvious of these strategies from the outside is the layout of the car's wheels in a diamond formation--a principle that has been patented by Franco Sbarro, Assystem's partner on the project. The car's doors open upward in gullwing-style, not just to show that it is a concept car, but to allow the greatest access with the minimum footprint area.
It is inside, however, that the City Car really gets our attention. In place of a windshield, the City Car has an LCD display, which can apparently be rendered transparent for regular driving (we're not sure how) or turned into a monitor showing camera footage of the road ahead in difficult driving conditions or at night. To help with night driving, the City Car also has an infrared camera. In the latter mode, the system relies on four external cameras that reproduce real-time imagery of the road, onto which is then projected information on key road markers and obstacles, such as traffic lights and pedestrians. According to its designers, the screen can also be connected to the City Car's onboard GPS navigation system to give drivers an "augmented reality" view of the road ahead, complete with turn arrows projected onto real objects.
Assystem also suggests that the City Car can identify specific road signs such as those for speed limits and one-way streets, and give a warning notice if the driver's behavior is contravening them. To complete the futuristic vision, the City Car's designers envisage an iris-recognition system for turning the vehicle on and for detecting when the driver becomes tired. If all this sounds too good to be true, it very probably is--when we first asked for a demonstration of the system, the Assystem rep was having trouble even turning the screen on. Not quite ready for prime time, but an interesting view of the future all the same.