Nissan GT-R (X) Design Study – An Autonomous Car for Enthusiasts

The Nissan GT-R (X) is a design study for a future autonomous sports car for the year 2050. Its creator, former Nissan Design America (NDA) intern and recent ArtCenter College of Design graduate Jaebum ‘JB’ Choi, envisioned it as a sensory experience for the enthusiast driver.

“I started my internship at NDA in January and participated in company projects for about two months. Then, I started my ‘vision humanoid’ project for the rest of the internship, working from home because of COVID-19,” said Choi.

Nissan GT-R (X) 2050

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Choi “provided very creative work” as an intern, says NDA Vice President David Woodhouse. “When he started his final thesis project at ArtCenter we were very impressed by it. We felt a great synergy between his work and what was going on in the studio. We were looking for points of excitement looking out into the future.”

The storyline was the hook, admits Woodhouse. Choi set out with a profound vision that envisioned a new autonomous sports car experience that was never considered by Woodhouse, a self-proclaimed car guy who’s been known to race his classic cars at circuits like Goodwood.

While the autonomous future does appear dystopian for the enthusiast, Choi’s aim was to amplify the sensations of driving a sports car rather than nullify them.

His project is a single-passenger car in the shape of an X in plan view, mimicking the form of the human body stretched out. The driver lays down inside the vehicle and wears a docking suit and helmet that reads impulses from brain synapses for an augmented sensory experience. The helmet, designed to be inserted into a slot, displays images from a set of external cameras and is paired with VR vision to amplify visibility around the vehicle.

Nissan GT-R (X) 2050

The team at Nissan then decided to create a full-size model of the vehicle, which embodies the rebel spirit of the GT-R. The design study in a future autonomous era when machines can embody a driver’s emotion through a physical connection.  Nissan’s V-motion design identity is visible in the graphical treatment of the front while the side view captures the gesture of the driver position inside. It also features cylindrical GT-R taillights and red-striped accents of the GT-R NISMO.

What’s most noticeable is the scale of the concept. The project is only 2908mm long, 1537mm wide, and sits just 658mm tall. The images of people standing beside it emphasize just how compact the machine is. With a wheelbase of only 1756mm, the driver is extended in an X-shape, making the vehicle more aligned with a four-wheeled superbike than a conventional car.

Nissan GT-R (X) 2050

“Exo-skeletons today make people stronger by wearing mechanical structures. I tried to fit the size of a person’s body as much as I could, as if I were wearing a car,” Choi says of the vehicle’s compact layout. “I wanted to create a new form of machine that is not a vehicle to ride, it is the space where machine and the human become one. “

As a ‘wearable machine,’ Choi envisions that connecting the human brain to the computer’s would provide better performance than ‘ordinary’ self-driving cars. He says the vehicle imitates the shape of the human body so it can efficiently protect the brain.  

“JB is a super-talented, super-creative designer and his ideas about future supercars driven by brain-to-vehicle integration fit perfectly with Nissan’s advanced work in the B2V field,” said Woodhouse. “His thesis was all about demonstrating the emotional connection technology can create, and the benefit that it can deliver for customers.”

Nissan GT-R (X) 2050

As a vehicle that would be ‘driven’, most likely at night, maneuverability would be a critical part of its high-power electric performance. Choi imagines the vehicle’s one-piece wheel/tire units as having a shape close to square, allowing the vehicle to turn 360 degrees. The outer tire diameter measures 21 inches and inner wheel circle is 15 inches. The wheels’ spoke pattern was designed to help the wheel cool down fast, even under extreme braking.

“JB has essentially envisioned a new mode of transportation that people could experience like clothes, wearable, instead of a traditional vehicle carriage,” Woodhouse notes. “It is the kind of breaking-the-mold thinking that has always been encouraged here at NDA. We’ve been honored to help bring JB’s vision to life.”

Choi is likely feeling very honored too. Not only has his visionary concept been brought to life in full-scale, but he’s also anticipated to begin working at NDA soon, too.


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