The Los Angeles auto show opens later this week, with the covers coming off fleets of future vehicles. But we’re already able to see part of the show buzz, in the entries for the annual Design Challenge.
This year, manufacturers are presenting their visions for the highway patrol vehicles of the future. And while the chosen year is not far away – 2020 – the designs are closer to sci-fi set millennia from now than anything on the roads today.
General Motors – which has a rebadged Holden Caprice as a real-world future US police car – has drawn on its latest electric-hybrid drivetrain for the Volt Squad.
A three-vehicle unit built around the core principles of “observe, pursue and engage”, the squad uses a van, a streamlined pursuit car and an airborne bike to hunt and collar the baddies.
Subaru has set their entry in the tropical paradise of Hawaii, with the SHARC (Subaru Highway Automated Response Concept) patrol vehicles able to be operated autonomously.
Despite their unmanned ability, Subaru designers have optioned the vehicles with a range of future-uniformed police – looking more like a badly rewarmed Village People than anything dreamed up for 60’s hit Hawaii Five-0. Book ‘em, Danno. Fashion murder one.
Honda also turned to retro police action with vehicles for the future “CHiPs” – California Highway Patrol for those of us who don’t live there or are thankfully too young to remember THAT cheese-toasted 70s show.
The CHiPs 2025 Traffic Crawler is designed to enforce the rules in a predicted California traffic boom fed by zero-emissions, zero-driver vehicles. Honda describes the ungainly three-wheeled Crawler as combining “sporty mobility with the toughness to respond in severe traffic situations”.
This hints that Honda suspects green, driverless vehicles will be no less accident-prone or confused than the sleepy commuters of today. Honda’s CHP Drone Squad is a paired combo – punk van and motorcycle – that work in tandem, with the van able to control the two-wheeler as a riderless drone when needed.
Judge Dredd would be horrified at manoeuvring his bike from the comfort of the van’s command point, but it’s possible his summary capital punishments are off the future charge sheet menu.
BMW has also droned on with the E-Patrol – a two-seater mothership with a trio of wheeled or airborne drones to deploy, either remotely or with the drone operator hitching a joyride while the main vehicle’s driver follows. Bound to reverse the classic battle over who commands the car keys in every buddy-cop flick.
Mercedes-Benz has taken a mild path, entering a police-livery version of the Ener-G-Force concept they will unveil in the metal at the show. It looks futuristic enough at first glance, but under that Bladerunner skin it’s simply the latest rework of the G-Wagen that first appeared in 1979 and still soldiers on in military forces around the globe 33 years later. Back to the future in Stuttgart.