Imagine a Mini. It’ll be a nice memory, because the only features it shares with that of the future will be the position of the wheels, at the four corners, and its footprint, i.e., its track on the road (it will be 4.46 metres long). It won’t be a simple car, according to the head of design for Mini, Oliver Heilmer, but “a space that adapts to your needs, which will make you feel at home”.

Mini Vision Urbanaut

Fascinating and utopian

It’ll be many years before it becomes a reality, though. To start with, the Mini Vision Urbanaut - a name that makes you think of an urban astronaut - is an electric concept at the purest level, in the sense that it is a virtual exercise that no model, much less a prototype, has followed. The digital model was created by employing augmented reality. It is a very distant Mini, perhaps a utopian one, but charming, although little remains of the Mini.

Mini Vision Urbanaut

Three “Mini moments”

The Mini designers weren’t the first to try their hand at researching the future in which, alas, cars will no longer be driven (a steering wheel and pedals can, however, come out of the dashboard, which is more of a couch than a dashboard). However, they’ve gone further than others. “Mini”, Heilmer says, “sees its future as a catalyst of and companion for unforgettable moments, which we could call ‘Mini moments’. The Urbanaut has three of them, to offer a wide range of use scenarios. We called them Chill, Wanderlust, and Vibe”.

Mini Vision Urbanaut

Relax or sharing

“Chill”, says Heilmer, “invites you to take a breath, have a break. The car becomes a sort of shelter, a refuge where you can relax or work. While still, obviously. Wanderlust is the only one that can be used while moving, while Vibe places time shared with other people at the centre of attention”.

Mini Vision Urbanaut

The Mini minivan

To accommodate all this, the Mini becomes a minivan with an octagonal grille and light units that are only visible when switched on. The paint - the opaque Zero Gravity tone - goes from a metal green with iridescent blue effects to a sober grey tone, with the windows taking on the colour of the bodywork.

Mini Vision Urbanaut

Skateboard style wheels

The wheels are in the style of a skateboard, with the tyres immersed in the rims. Then there are a thousand electronic gadgets. “For the Urbanaut”, Heilmer states, “we developed a holistic approach that regulates the relationship between shapes, materials, lighting, and sounds”.

(Full article in A&D no. 246)