DETROIT -

If you plan to visit the North American Auto Show, you don’t want to miss the Michelin display, which is rooted in a unique design challenge.

Now in its 12th year, the annual Michelin Challenge Design competition encourages aspiring designers from around the world to focus on design as it relates to a theme or an emerging trend in the automotive industry.

This year, the challenge’s them is “Driven/Undriven: The Duality of Tomorrow’s Automobiles.” For this challenge, participants were asked to explore the human connection to a vehicle and address the potential of autonomous motoring, as it opens new possibilities in automotive design.

With expected increases in populations, vehicles and traffic demands, vehicle autonomy is emerging as an essential component of future mobility systems. City planners and automotive system designers expect the car of the future will require some method of autonomous control to keep city traffic flowing.

For example, if the vehicle will be operated autonomously (commuting, running errands, staying within the urban environment) more than half the time, how can it transform to cater to a driver’s needs the rest of the time? Answering this question requires transforming the driven vehicle into an extension of the driver’s lifestyle, while retaining the experience of driving pleasure.

The emotional connection with one’s vehicle has traditionally been as closely tied with driving as with the sense of freedom that vehicle ownership has delivered to generations. Now, Michelin is challenging designers to explore how a vehicle can be designed to operate autonomously, while also creating an emotional connection through a “driven” mode.
“The strength of the Michelin Challenge Design competition is its ability to explore themes within the automotive industry that have the potential to affect vehicle and tire design worldwide,” said John Moloney, vice president of original equipment marketing, Michelin North and South America. “We continue to be surprised and delighted by the caliber or work that comes through this program."

Transportation and industry challenges explored through Michelin Challenge Design have included: solutions for alternative powertrains; vehicle-to-vehicle safety issues; safer fuel-efficient, smaller vehicles; and the future of electrifying vehicles.

“The topic of autonomy will bring maybe the most freedom yet in the use of personal and public transport,” said Stewart Reed, Michelin Challenge Design jury chairman and Chair of the Transportation Design Department, Art Center College of Design. “Some would say that autonomous vehicles are in fact the mass transit of the future—imagine a lot of autonomous vehicles clustered together and actually moving as a single larger vehicle, much like a school of fish will cluster and take on the shape of a larger fish to protect themselves. So we saw some great proposals from students and designers all over the world that suggested a bio-mimicry approach to autonomy.”

Works by individuals and teams of designers from Italy, China, South Korea, Finland, Serbia, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala were selected by a distinguished jury of the world’s top automotive designers and industry experts.

The winning designs were chosen from more than 900 registrants representing 74 countries. Now in its thirteenth year, Michelin Challenge Design has received over 6,000 entries from 110 countries.

The winner of the 2014 challenge is Chris Luchowiec from Poland. The second-place winners are Chuang Dong, Zhen Qui and Haowen Deng from China. The third-place winner is Takbeom Heogh from South Korea.