The International Geneva Motor Show has been held annually in Geneva, Switzerland since 1905. Organized by the Organization International des Constructeurs d’Automobiles, as Wikipedia describes it: “it is considered an important major international auto show has hosted almost all major internal combustion engine models in the history of the automobile, along with benzene- and steam-powered cars from the beginning of the century. …Prototypes, new equipment, technical breakthroughs, international partnerships, as well as political and social debates, have been announced at the exhibition.”
This year’s show (March 8–18, 2018) followed this grand tradition focusing as it did on electric vehicles, self-driving technology, and an unprecedented level of horsepower and luxury. Numerous sources online highlight the amazing prototypes introduced this year, but the two things that caught the attention of Road Rules could be described as almost book-ending the history of the automobile if history can also be said to include futuristic visions.
The first was the announcement by Volkswagen’s head of research and development, Frank Welsch, that its iconic compact, variously named (in the English-speaking world) the Volkswagen Type 1, then the Beetle and the Super Beetle or the Bug or Super Bug will not be replaced when the current production-cycle ends. “Two or three generations is enough now,” he was quoted as saying.
Named in 1999 by the Global Automotive Elections Foundation as the fourth most influential car of the 20th Century, —Ford’s Model T was ‘Number One’—the Volkswagen Type 1 was mass produced from 1945 to 1979, then in the second-generation model from 1997 to 2011, and in third generation starting in 2012. Perhaps the best indicator of this announcement’s impact was the call for calm implicit in the reminder that no specific date has been given for the end of the production cycle for the 2012 generation, and that, as it did in the past in its two-decade hiatus between the 1970s and 90s, the Beetle could resurface.
Furthermore, Volkswagen also promised in the “heritage” slot an upcoming electric Microbus, blending “retro styling with a high-tech battery-powered drivetrain that promises long, strange 300 mile trips between charges when it goes on sale in 2021.” …But, in short, and sad for many, the announcement of the possible end of an era.
The second futuristic announcement, however, involved a new beginning with a novel, highly innovative tire called Oxygene from Goodyear: a 3-D printed tire filled with living moss that can soak up water from the road and through photosynthesis release oxygen into the air thereby improving air quality. The photosynthetic process can also generate electricity which the tire will use to power built-in artificial intelligence and connection to the vehicle, the infrastructure, and the internet.
And, in the tradition of the classic whitewall tire, the Oxygene will have a light strip functioning as a more informative signal system to other vehicles and pedestrians than a traditional turn indicator. Additionally, the rubber matrix housing the moss-filled interior is puncture-proof and made from recycled tires. … In prototype only, with no production plans yet in place, nevertheless a sign of the exciting creative potential in today’s car industry.