Honda Advanced Design Tokyo Wins 2014 LA Design Challenge

Honda’s Japanese Advanced Design studio has won the 2014 LA Design Challenge competition. The Tokyo-based studio came out on top against four other design studios to win the award for the intuitive CARpet concept, which, after much deliberation, the judges felt best answered this year’s brief: “Sensing the Future: How Will Cars Interact with Us in 2029?”

“A lot of us in the design community love technology and new things,” said Design Challenge judge Stuart Reed, Art Center College of Design’s Chair of Transportation Design. “Our jury team felt that as we think about the promise of human-centered technology in the future, it’s probably way more submerged, in a quieter way.

“We used the example of how, in the future home, there probably won’t be big speakers for sound systems, we’ll just hear beautiful music,” Reed continued. “We think that technology is going to be very intuitive and beneath the surface, not apparent. The Honda CARpet concept was that. It had a crazy simplicity about it and we liked that.”

Reed cited that fellow competition judge Alexander Klatt pointed out the “highly flexible seating arrangements that take us back to an innocent time when we didn’t have all of the safety constraints of seat belts and airbags and people were enjoying the space inside the vehicle” as another factor that influenced the decision to bestow the ultimate award to the Honda CARpet concept.

“Designers go very wide with their thinking but at the end the judging criteria set by Chuck Pelly and Joan Gregor [Design LA Conference Directors] was very clear,” said Alexander Klatt, Chair of MFA Transportation Design & Associate Professor at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit.

The judging criteria consisted of human factors — comfort, attention to human sense — and the emotional connection to the machine (both of which accounted for 50 percent of the result) as well as the intuitiveness of the control interface, ecological sensitivity, the overall creativity of the concept and its ability to accurately reflect the brand.

The judges went through all of the concepts in the morning of the November 20th and came up with two shortlisted contenders based on the criteria above, but after seeing the team presentations in the afternoon they resumed deliberations.

“We learned so much more about the contenders after the presentation that we went back and started over,” said Klatt. “We looked over the criteria sheet and the matrix we had created. We comprehensively went through all of the considerations again. And, to be honest, every one of the entries came up as a winner at some point in our discussion. We all agreed that, as Chairs in design education, we had to stick to the criteria and leave our gut feeling out.

“Overall it was our decision to go with the seamless approach of the CARpet project,” Klatt concluded. “It was the purity that we’ve been aiming for in interiors for a long time, the comfortable position in terms of human factors was that we could change the interior, we could create a lot of seating configurations and everyone in the vehicle could do something completely different.”

Although all five participating design studios presented thought-provoking concepts, it was Honda Tokyo that best met the judging criteria on how future technology will further transform human-to-machine interfaces that connect with senses, predict our next moves and create a more humanlike relationship with our vehicles.

“Honda Advanced Design Tokyo created a seamless, inclusive and integrated concept with CARpet that brings back the fun in family road trips,” said Tom Matano, Design Challenge judge and Executive Director of the Academy of Art University’s School of Industrial Design. “They successfully created a human-centric design solution which included the promise of technology and connectivity to make the experience for drivers enjoyable. It is truly intuitive and anticipating of what people want.”

Other design studios who participated in this year’s Design Challenge represented Acura, Qoros, Peterbilt Motors and Infiniti, which was crowned the first ‘People’s Choice Award’ winner for its imaginative SynaptiQ concept (more on that soon).

In addition to the five competing studios, CALTY Design Research (USA), Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Center California, Nissan Design America, Subaru Global Design Team and Volkswagen Group of America Design Center California also showcased their latest future-facing concepts in the LA Auto Show’s Design Gallery.

All the design concepts will be prominently displayed at the LA Auto Show in the Design Gallery through November 30, 2014.


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