Last year was my first time attending the Los Angeles Auto Show. I was pretty impressed! There were lots of cool cars and futuristic gadgets and lots of fun things to look at and everything was so interesting. This year we went to the show to see what was happening with the Design Challenge, a little design contest given to a few design studio executives like the heads of BMW and Honda. This was quite a fun and inventive showcase of modern automotive talent which, unfortunately for the legendary auto show, was the only really cool thing happening there this year.
In a small conference space removed from the main exhibition floor, a group of designers, industry people, and press sat and heard all about this year’s Design Challenge. The task this year was to create the Highway Patrol Vehicle for 2025. The challenge was equal parts design innovation as it was futurist imagining and environmental sensitivity: the designers were being judged on “consideration of future needs,” creativity in making a car that protects and serves, rising to a region’s emission standards, and focusing on being eco-friendly. There were six entries that came from BMW Group Designworks USA, General Motors, Honda North America, Honda Japan, Mercedes-Benz, and Subaru.
After a great car and cop speech by California Highway Patrol’s Joe Farrow, one in which urged for automakers to make safer cars for officers and civilians alike, the showcases began. The most interesting were BMW and GM’s entries, both of which had a similar idea: 2025 Los Angeles is going to be fast and sleek–and cops will need to be faster and sleeker. Both designs were svelte with embedded screens on their windows but both had their own unique attributes: BMW’s design included K-9 inspired drones to help stop runaway vehicles and they even made a design for the 2050 police car; GM’s design (and overall presentation) went above and beyond everyone else’s with a sexy observant motorcycle, a pursuant car, and an almost literal futuristic paddy wagon. Both of these designs were practical, cool, and made futuristic LA look neat.
The other designs were good (Honda US and Honda Japan both had practical but kind of boring entries) while others were a bit too caught up in fantasy. Mercedes’ Design was totally bogus as it took place mostly in jungle environments because young people “want to escape the plastic world.” There were quicksand scenarios and a bulbous remodeled G-Wagon: it was a bit silly. Subaru’s design felt similar in its being a Hawaiian highway patroller. That said, they did make a vehicle that could function on its own and was very eco-friendly. They did end up winning the challenge although they were not necessarily our top pick.
After the presentation, we set out to take a look around the Auto Show, hoping for equally as exciting presentations as last year. Sadly, it was pretty lame. Aside from the Convention Center looking its absolute best and a little “EBlimp” puttering around near Jeep, everything was pretty monotonous and fine. I mean, BMW presented the same concept car they did last year. For those interested in the show, you need to be a super intense gear head and live and breath cars. If you’re not? You may be a bit bored. The Design Challenge is really spectacular but, unfortunately, this presentation is relegated to walkway in between both halls.
The show is open today and will be around through December 9. Tickets are $12 but we think you can check out the Design Challenge for free because it isn’t contained within one of the Halls. It’s a pretty underwhelming show this year–but the Design Challenge is cool. Check it out if you can!