Nissan builds baffling, belly-surfing GTR-X 2050 concept

By Loz Blain

Nissan’s design team has built a full-scale model of Korean designer Jaebum “JB” Choi’s concept of an autonomous supercar for the year 2050. Conceived as a mind-controlled, rolling exoskeleton, the GTR-X is one of the year’s most unusual concepts.

When I think of what life might be like in 30 years, all I can imagine is an armada of fleshy pleasure robots mincing about, distracting rich people from the climate catastrophes outside their triple-glazed windows. JB Choi, on the other hand, feels we’ll be zipping about the megacities of the future head-first in X-shaped, single-occupant autonomous electric 4-wheelers.

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The GTR-X concept is built around the human form; you pop the top of the GTR-X and slip in, lying flat on your belly. This position allows for good low-drag aerodynamics, much like the early prototypes for the autonomous Roborace cars, but it’s pretty ordinary for looking out the windscreen. So there’s no windscreen. Somebody better tell the guys down at the intersection with their buckets and squeegees, they’ll need a 30-year career change plan.

The helmet and backpack provide a neural interface through to the energy core
The helmet and backpack provide a neural interface through to the energy coreNissan

Instead, the driver straps on an oddly spherical VR helmet with a series of vaguely lewd protrusions that provide vision from cameras on the exterior of the car. That’s not all; you also have to wear a race suit and a large backpack. The GTR-X doesn’t have anything so last-century as a steering wheel; it’s a self-driver, after all. Your interface with the car comes through a “brain to core transmitter” that directly converts your thoughts into digital form and sends them to a glowing blue “plazma energy core” where … things happen, and you’re offski.

Clearly, a few technological leaps will be needed to get us from here to there. Nissan will need to solve the problem of drivers spewing copiously into their VR helmets when the motion they’re perceiving with their eyes is perpendicular to the motion they’re experiencing in their bodies. It will need to figure out how to make Choi’s “360-degree” wheels work. It will need to invent “plazma energy cores.” It will need quantum leaps in autonomous vehicle and neural interface technologies, and it will need great strides forward in marketing technology to convince people the best way to get around is to suit-and-boot up, and whack on a goldfish bowl helmet that can fill up with chunder as they go whizzing about on their tummies.

Nissan will not, however, need to build a scale model, because it’s already done that. So that’s one key piece squared away.

A low-down and low-drag design
A low-down and low-drag designNissan
The GTR-X is, of course, simply Choi’s thesis submission as he graduates from California’s ArtCenter College of Design. The Nissan connection came about through a two-month pre-COVID internship he undertook with Nissan Design America. Nissan saw promise and potential in his work, and built this 10-foot-long (3-m) 1:1 model both to encourage Choi in his future endeavors and to spark some conversation and imagination about what future transport could look like.

“JB is a super-talented, super-creative designer and his ideas about future supercars driven by brain-to-vehicle integration fit perfectly with Nissan’s advanced work in the B2V field,” says Nissan Design America VP David Woodhouse. “His thesis was all about demonstrating the emotional connection technology can create, and the benefit that it can deliver for customers. It was super exciting for the NDA team to help JB give form to this idea as a 1:1 model.”

We agree with the NDA team that Choi has a great sense of proportion, surfacing, aesthetics and imagination. We look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

Source: Nissan USA

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