Concepts are typically pretty wacky — after all, they’re supposed to ooze innovation. These vehicles are supposed to offer a glimpse, however, brief, into what the future could be, and we have another one of those “visions” today. This is the Mini Urbanaut concept: a “digital vision vehicle” meant to present a new face and approach to autonomous electric vehicles. This time, that approach comes in the guise of a weird sort of Jetsons-like pod mixed with a minivan. It’s different, that’s for sure, but I’d love to hear what you think about it in the comments below.
‘Maximum space within a small footprint’
Of course, Mini has always aimed for a trendy, youthful image, and they’re not letting up on that messaging one bit with the Urbanaut concept. “Mini sees its future self as an enabler of and companion for unforgettable times — what we might call ‘MINI Moments’,” says Head of BMW Group Design Adrian van Hooydonk. To that end, the Mini Vision Urbanaut centers around the concept of a lounge, moreso than a traditional car. Going back to the “moments” comment, Mini actually created three different modes to set certain tones for the occupants. “Chill” is meant to turn the Urbanaut into a relaxing retreat. “Vibe” is centered around spending time with others, whatever that entails.
Perhaps most importantly to the autonomous angle, “Wanderlust” is the only mode where the Urbanaut acts like a conventional car. It’s the only Mini “moment” where you can actually drive it, so the concept in itself isn’t fully autonomous. That said, the goal is more or less to let the Urbanaut take over for the journey so you can relax. It even has a “Cosy Corner” where the seats fold down into a sort of couch area where they can relax. The concept even sports a table with an LED light and plant in the middle.
Remember safari windshields?
When you park your Mini Vision Urbanaut, that’s when it’s time to really relax. The driver’s area then converts into the “Daybed”. But it gets even better than that. In its “creative use of space”, this concept has a “Street Balcony”.
“How does that work,” you ask? Apparently, the windshield actually opens upward when the Urbanaut is stationary. “This enhances interaction with the car’s surroundings and creates an even more generous spatial experience,” Mini claims. So, park up your Mini, shuffle the seats around, fold up the windshield and you have more of a hangout space? That more or less seems to be the goal here. The headlights, rear lights and even the wheels change color to suit whatever sort of vibe you want to create around the vehicle.
There you have it. It seems to be less of a car (or even a van, despite the sliding door) and more of a place. From a company whose pedigree stems from small, fun and cheeky hatchbacks? This seems like a departure from at least two out of those three philosophies.
Here, just to juxtapose the Urbanaut with a bit of Mini’s present history: