Visionary dreamers

By Wiebke Brauer
On land and sea, in the air, and through time: Mobility is a topic that also motivates the famous film studios in Hollywood. No matter how far out a vision from the Hollywood Dream Factory may be, years later, it seems to materialize in the real world.
© ZUMA Press/Imago
Light Cycle Tron: Legacy

Vehicle type Cyber motorcycle

Special features More than for its plot, the science fiction movie “Tron” from 1982 is remembered for the mopeds it featured, albeit the movie is regarded as a milestone in computer animation. The design of the motorcycles back then was created by Syd Mead (see also “Blade Runner”), that of the sequel by German automobile designer Daniel Simon.

Drive The cycles run on liquid energy and the rider accelerates by pulling the front and rear wheels apart which exposes the engine.
Curious detail For 55,000 dollars, street-legal replicas of the Light Cycle – albeit without the light-band function – went on sale when the movie was released in 2010. A 1,000 cc V2 Suzuki engine was installed to power the bike, and its steel frame was lined with fiber glass bodywork.

Spinner Blade Runner
Visionary dreamers© Warner Bros/Getty

Vehicle type Automobile

Special feature Vertical take-off capability

Drive IC engines, jet propulsion and a kind of anti-gravitation unit

Use Is mainly driven or flown by police for surveillance, and occasionally a rich citizen buys an illegal license.

Design Syd Mead worked as a design artist on movies like “Aliens” and “Star Trek.” He designed the light cycle from “Tron” and talked about “electronic herds” – something we call car-to-car communication today – as far back as 30 years ago. Asked about mobility of the future, Mead, who is now 83, once said that the question had not been answered so far, and that he didn’t know if the auto industry could find the right answer.

Audi RSQ I, Robot
Visionary dreamers© Warner Bros/Getty

Vehicle type Automobile

Special features Fiberglass laminate body with “Lunarsilver” coating, gull-wing doors – plus spherical wheels allowing the car to maneuver in all directions. It’s a self-driving vehicle, an idea which, by the way, appears in Erich Kästner’s childrens’ novel “The 35th of May”. Kästner wrote it in 1931 and the fantasy also features moving sidewalks and cell phones.

Design The Audi RSQ specifically designed for the movie is based on a concept of the Audi Le Mans quattro, which subsequently was fed into the body design of the real Audi R8. “Integrating the spheres into the vehicle’s styling posed one of the greatest challenges to us,” recalls Julian Hönig, who was responsible for the exterior design of the Audi RSQ at the time.

DeLorean: Back to the Future

Vehicle type Automobile

© Imago
DeLorean Back to the Future

Vehicle type Automobile

Who invented it? Dr. Emmett L. Brown. He had the idea for it on November 5, 1955 when he slipped in the bathroom while trying to hang a clock on the wall and his head hit the sink.

Drive The DeLorean DMC-12 reaches the 140 km/h (88 mph) needed for the time leap by means of an IC engine that burns unleaded fuel. The additionally required 1.21 gigawatts are generated by a plutonium-fueled nuclear reactor at the rear. The rust-proof steel body of the DeLorean facilitates the “flux dispersal.” Later, it is supplanted by a fusion generator from Fusion Industries that converts matter (household waste) into energy.

Good to know The flux capacitor is the device that makes time travel possible.

Design Giorgio Giugiaro

Lexus 2054 Minority Report
Visionary dreamers© Lexus

Vehicle type Automobile

Special features A fuel cell powered mid-mounted electric motor with an output of 670 hp, a DNA recognition system, response to voice and gestures, autopilot, memory metals resistant to deformation, an infrared accident avoidance system.

Curious detail Director Steven Spielberg wanted a Lexus for his film – he drives one himself.

Good to know For the movie, a fully automated factory was designed in which vehicles, among other things, are produced using a predecessor of the 3D printer. A complete action sequence takes place during the production chain and ends in Anderton (Tom Cruise) fleeing in the finished car.

Transporter Star Trek
Visionary dreamers© Imago

Type of travel Teleportation/beaming

Who invented it? Neither beaming nor the warp drive was originated by “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry. In March 1877 the New York newspaper “The Sun” published a short story by Edward P. Mitchell titled “The Man Without a Body,” in which teleportation, as the title suggests, worked less than perfectly.

How does it work? A standard Starfleet transporter decomposes the object to be beamed into its atoms, sends these through a stream of matter and then rematerializes them at the destination.

Good to know In the Star Trek series, beaming was introduced for cost reasons in order to circumvent complex landing sequences on alien planets. By the way, the world famous phrase “Beam me up, Scotty” was never actually spoken in any episode.

Nautilus: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Vehicle type Submarine

© NBCUniversal
Nautilus Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Vehicle type Submarine

Drive While in the movie from 1954 Nautilus uses nuclear power for propulsion, the original ship in Jule Verne’s novel from 1870 is powered by electricity. More than likely, it is generated according to the fuel cell principle using sodium amalgam. The sodium is extracted from distilled saltwater. The required energy stems from coal being mined on the seabed. The Nautilus achieves a top speed of 54 knots, approx. 100 km/h (62 mph).

Design Jules Verne describes the cigar-shaped ship as being approx. 70 meters long, 8 meters wide and weighing 1,506 metric tons. Harper Goff, who designed it for the Walt Disney movie was inspired by sea monsters.

K.I.T.T. Knight Rider
Visionary dreamers© Inc./Getty

Vehicle type Automobile

Drive Knight Industries turbojet with modified reheat

Special features Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from 1982 with auto cruise and auto collision avoidance, homing device, turbo boost, super pursuit mode and an anharmonic synthesizer which makes it possible to imitate sounds and people, silent mode, microjam used to tamper with other electronic devices, CO2, oxygen and oil nozzles, emergency braking system, built-in automatic teller machine, grapples, molecular sealing, communication via voice recognition in the car and via comlink/wrist watch – plus countless other gadgets.

Good to know The series’ intro blurb “Knight Rider. A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist … a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the powerless, the helpless …”

Exoskeleton Elyseum, Iron Man and Aliens
Visionary dreamers© Marvel 2016

Function They support the protagonists in tackling tasks such as lifting heavy loads in “Aliens” and in gunfights like those in “Elyseum,” “Iron Man” (Powered Exoskeleton) or “Matrix Reloaded” (Armored Personnel Unit – APU).

Very real Exoskeletons are used by the military. The system by U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin is called “HULC Load Carrier” and enables soldiers to carry/wear gear weighing up to 90 kilos. Exoskeletons are used for indust­rial purposes as well and in medicine where the technology has been successfully supporting therapies or is used as a walking aid. The next step: bionics that fuse humans and technology in the form of smart prostheses networked with the brain.

Tube Transportation System Futurama
Visionary dreamers© Futurama Comics/Panini

Type of system High-speed transportation

How does it work? There’s no explanation provided, but the TTS can be used for free, all it takes is to tell it where you want to go and the system will catapult you to your destination through transparent tubes.

Who invented it? The British engineer George Medhurst came up with the idea of using tubes for transportation. As far back as in 1799, he registered a patent for an “Aeolian engine.”

Good to know In 2013, Elon Musk proposed a system that would propel people in pod-like vehicles through a tube on air bearings at a speed of up to 1.225 km/h (761 mph). The Hyperloop was originally planned to run from San Francisco to Los Angeles, now it’s more likely that it will be built between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Wiebke Brauer
Author Wiebke Brauer
Although Hamburg journalist Wiebke Brauer always found the “Knight Rider” series horrible, she wouldn’t mind owning a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – as long as it doesn’t talk …