Good Oil: Now you see me
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First it was a patent for a flying car design; now ToyMoCo appears to be attempting to invent see-through structural panels.
Actually, the latter concept isn’t half bad at all. If you’ve ever been in something with deep a-pillars (the metal struts that frame the windscreen and act as a structural anchoring point for the roof to the front of the cabin), you’ll know how difficult it can sometimes be to see “through” them.
Slightly more realistic than the jellybean-silhouetted flying car patent that fell across The Good Oil’s desk a few months back, Toyota has filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office some new blueprints for a design aimed at reducing driver blind spots.
The problem for manufacturers of SUVs is that they need thicker A-, B-, C-, and D-pillars to successfully pass roll-over testing for EuroNcap, Ancap and other stringent safety programmes. But thicker pillars lead to bigger blindspots.
There are far more complex drawings attached to the patent than this one, but in essence Toyota’s designers claim their system will use mirrors to bend light around solid objects — in this case, pesky structural support sheet-metal. Toyota describes the technology as a “cloaking device”, which makes it sound a bit more James Bond than it really is.
It’s not technically a new idea: Jaguar Land Rover have had a similar idea in R&D hell since 2014. Whether the Japanese manufacturer can beat them to the post (see what we did there?) remains to be seen.
Skoda SUVs get vRS treatment
Skoda’s attitude to their vRS models is all a bit arse-about-proverbial. But it’s also a firm sign of the SUV-flavoured times we find ourselves in these days. Let us explain ...
The shocking main point is that — and this is the official word — there is no longer anything approaching a business case at Skoda for models smaller than the Octavia to be vRS-ified. So, you can forget about the once-revered Fabia vRS ever seeing the light of day again. Hot hatches? “Not hatches”, more like.
Instead, it’s Skoda’s bigger vehicles that are lining up to get the re-tune treatment; a nod to the fact that performance SUVs are the new black. The very new black for Skoda. In fact, they’ve only just got one and perhaps reflective of the universal praise it has garnered, their SUV is already in line to receive a vRS addition to the model offering.
The Kodiaq — a seven-seater SUV of Volkswagen Touareg proportions that is expected to push Skoda into focus for mainstream buyers — will get a vRS variant, with stiffened suspension, retuned steering and suspension upgrades.
When? We’re not sure, but sooner than any other would-be performance car at Skoda. The Superb sedan/wagon — long rumoured to be next in line for a performance tickle-up — will remain vRS-less for now in favour of the SUV.
But there’s a twist in the tail here, too. According to a UK magazine interview with Skoda’s R&D overlord, Christian Strube, the Volkswagen Group engine Skoda intends to pull from the shelf for the Kodiaq vRS is — gasp! — a turbo diesel.
The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder twin turbo diesel the company is likely to choose, says Strube, is a 176kW jobbie already in service in other Volkswagen product. Hardly a populist move though, surely? After all, what’s wrong with the 169kW turbo petrol already being used in the Octavia vRS?
Roving robo restaurant
It isn’t just sleek German sedans and Minority Report-esque mobility pods that we can expect to ferry us about autonomously in the future: a collective of designers reckon the hip-but-humble food truck will be in line to get the robo treatment, too. Six techno-futurists have teamed up with Pizza Hut to create a roving room for ravenous types. The concept food truck allows customers to step on board and – through a series of gestures and swipes — create a pizza with all the toppings they desire, as well as order condiments and drinks to go. All without interacting with a uniform-wearing humanoid.
Despite coffee not appearing in the pitch, there’s an on-board “barista” to guide visitors through the pizza purchasing process. When the customer has swiped from one end of the walk-in food truck to the other, piping hot pizza awaits before they exit. If these things become a franchise, The Good Oil calls dibs on the streets around all university campus dormitories.