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Lincoln Envisions a Future Where Driving Is Literal Child’s Play

Remember being a kid and pushing a toy car around on a city rug? Lincoln designers do.

Lincoln pulled the wraps off its Model L100 Concept last night at Monterey Car Week, where it’s celebrating being the featured marque of this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The gorgeous-looking coupe pays homage to the brand’s original luxury car; the 1922 Model L, while also hinting at its future design language. After the concept’s reveal, I caught up with Kemal Curic, Global Design Director for Lincoln Motor Company, and asked him about the inspiration behind the car’s steering device. I say “device” because it isn’t a steering wheel, but a jewel-inspired chess piece controller.

“When talking with our designers about how we re-imagined the future of driving—how we could re-envision driving when you no longer need a steering wheel—one of them mentioned seeing his children play with toy cars,” said Curic. “He was observing them playing with cars and it all seemed so very natural, seeing them grab the cars with their hands and steering them left and right.”

Curic is referring to something that pretty much everyone’s done at some point in their young or adult lives. Y’know, grab a Hot Wheels and push it down a surface, pretending like it’s a town, a racetrack, an obstacle course, whatever. We’ve all done it. Maybe some of you even had those cool rugs depicting a whole city, complete with intersections, roundabouts, stop lights, the local bank, stores, etc. It wasn’t long ago that I was actually playing this along with my youngest daughter on her bedroom rug, so I knew Curic was onto something here.

“You see children steering the car left and right and forward and back just moving it with their hands, it’s actually something very emotional, very connected,” said Curic. “It was this aha! moment. When he [the designer] sketched it all out, he came up with this beautiful idea of this chess piece, this crystal piece, that you can place on this surface and grab it and move it around and move the actual vehicle.

“The surface it sits on is a map, and there’s a magnetic field that senses where the chess piece is moving, and that’s how you’d drive the car around on the map, around a city,” added Curic.

The sketch shown above is how the idea was initially born, which appears to show the glass controller affixed to the surface. However, it evolved into what you can see in the other live photos from the unveiling, where Curic showed me how the piece would actually glide over the surface—not remain attached.

It goes without saying that the Model L100 Concept is strictly that—a concept. However, as far as far-fetched futuristic features go, I’m really digging this way more than a yoke, joystick, or just not having anything in place of a steering wheel. This chess piece and chessboard really speak to one’s natural instinct of movement. As humans, whenever we want to move something we just pick it up and move it; so why should our cars be any different?

Like I said about the Model L100 yesterday: concept cars don’t have to make sense. They just need to be a cool representation of our wildest ideas.

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