Zephyr, the Driverless Car Designed by Stavros Mavrakis

The National Herald

Stavros Mavrakis designer of Zephyr, a driverless car. Photo: Courtesy of Stavros Mavrakis

ATHENS – The Greek designer Stavros Mavrakis (Stavros Mavrakis) presented a proposal for a “vehicle from the future,” as described in Drive magazine.

“Zephyr,” illustrated in digital images, is a design exercise by Mr. Mavrakis, for an autonomous (driverless) vehicle that will be a piece of “mobile architecture,” he said.

Mavrakis also told The National Herald that, with regard to Zephyr, “I was aiming not just to put forward a futuristic concept, but to create something that would have a holistic/good approach, not just something visually, aesthetically beautiful and minimal, but above all something that has substance and a realistic, as much as possible, reference base.”

“This is about a project that is trying to offer fresh ideas in designing and exploiting new technologies, trying to match design to innovation by offering a new experience in the way we use a vehicle or more... a ‘mobile architecture’ as I say.”

Mavrakis continued, “The project tries to offer fresh ideas and answer problems, exploiting new technologies such as driving without a driver, showing how it could be the future.”

As he pointed out, “At this point the Greek element comes in, marrying all the above inspired/borrowed elements from Greek mythology, the forms and geometries of ancient Greek art (see Cycladic figurines), popular but also modern architecture and tradition, including the materials and the culture of the place. An important element of the project is sustainability and untapped renewable energy sources. I wanted to make a hint at them as I consider them important directions/guides for the future, especially for a place like Greece that is experiencing a surplus. Moving in this direction, we cannot only offer innovative proposals but at the same time try to protect what we are generously given and often neglected, the Greek landscape with its rich features.”

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Zephyr, the driverless car, at the beach. Photo: Drive/Stavros Mavrakis

In particular, according to Drive, (the article is reprinted by TNH with permission from Alexis Galanopoulos, Editor-in-Chief of Autocar Magazine) it is a driverless vehicle in 2030, designed for the purpose of sharing it with the visitors of a tourist destination, such as the Aegean islands, from which Mavrakis drew his inspiration.

Under these circumstances, driving is far from desirable. The traveler has every reason to see the scenery and admire the sights he encounters on his way, rather than watching the road. So the vehicle transporting him should be adapted to these requirements.

At the same time, it should be environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing. By doing so, the way in which we visit and experience a place would change altogether.

Zephyr moves on four wheels, like the cars we know, but from here on it is made of white paper. The bottom of it resembles a boat hull. With a length of 4.47 m (about 14.66 feet) and opposite, its narrow, sharp edge is on the rear of the vehicle.

A three-legged frame, reminiscent of a metallic sculpture, reaching a height of 1.66 m (about 5.45 feet) is on top of it. The inclination of the front is similar to that found in the front pillars of a conventional car while the rear is vertical.

There is the backlight integrated, as well as retractable stairs, through which someone can climb the roof, and lie down on the hammock for sunbathing. There are no windows at all.

The “cabin” consists of a single wooden surface that points to a wooden deck board with passenger seats, which can be converted into deck chairs or completely removed so that they can be used as beach chairs.

To operate the car there is only one touchscreen on the side of the passenger compartment. A shelf offers wireless smartphone charging, while a separate luggage compartment is at the front.

Zephyr has electric motors on the wheels. The current can come from a conventional socket, from special wireless charging positions, or from wind energy, thanks to a wind turbine extending from its back.

Thus, the vehicle can be charged whenever it is stopped. Whether someone uses it while stationary or waiting for its next user to call through a smartphone. The distance from the ground reaches 19.4 centimeters (about 7.6 inches), so it can move off the road.

Mavrakis studied Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and later Car Design at the Royal College of Art in London. For his diploma thesis he decided to combine these two qualities, along with the Greek element and the mood to respond to future challenges, by designing Zephyr. A project in 2019 to be hosted at the London Transport Museum.

“By finishing my studies in Athens and having lived a year in Paris as a student through the Erasmus exchange program, I wanted to go abroad again and continue exploring, seeing new things, getting new, different stimuli, and to expand my field of vision,” he told TNH.

“So I cannot say that the crisis was the springboard for my decision to go, but mainly my need to explore, to test the waters and be tested, apart from architecture, and designing cars... something that could have started with a childish naivete from my school days. The crisis (and other elements) obviously came to intensify this decision,” Mavrakis noted, adding that “the absence of the object [see vehicle design] in Greece in conjunction with the economic crisis are the basic elements that obviously affected my decision to return. My goal is to be able to see things and gain experience... so being somewhere giving birth to new ideas, innovation, which is generally active and that gives you the opportunity to take part in it... it is vital!”

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