By this point, almost everyone knows that self-driving cars aren’t far from being commonplace, as multiple auto manufacturers have designed andeven begun testingvehicles equipped with intelligent driving technology. The advent of smart cars will be one of the biggest upheavals in transportation since the invention of the original car itself, but it’s not the only technology creeping up to redefine the automotive industry. A Los Angeles startup is working to change not the way we drive cars, but the way we manufacture them – and their work could have just as much of an impact as self-driving cars.
Hack Rod was formed by a couple of stunt drivers/racers along with the former Vice President of Creative atMattel‘s Wheels Division. Their goal? To produce the world’s first car designed in a virtual environment and engineered with artificial intelligence – essentially, a self-designing car. The implications for the automotive manufacturing industry are thrilling or terrifying, depending on how you look at it (or who you work for). Hack Rod’s theory is that with completely virtual and AI-based manufacturing, automotive design and and production could be placed into the hands of individuals (even those without many design skills) and small businesses.
To bring their idea to reality, Hack Rod partnered with several leading companies in software, manufacturing and distribution, including Autodesk, which has played a major role in the design and development of the car. In particular, their Dreamcatcher generative design system, an experimental platform that allows the software itself to have a “hand” in designing, has formed the basis of the car’s design.
Hack Rod started by scanning a prefabricated chassis and uploading it to the cloud. They then took the existing car – a very basic sportscar design – for several test drives, pushing it to the limits of its capabilities while sensors attached to the car and driver measured force and stress.