For some time now, we’ve been hearing whispers about Faraday Future, a new high-tech electric car company from Los Angeles. A car company keen to follow in the tire tracks of Tesla Motors and build high-end, super-fast electric cars.
Located in a former research and development facility once occupied by Nissan, the company — which has been operating in stealth mode for past eighteen months — already has some impressive names associated with it. There’s Nick Sampson, former Vehicle and Chassis Engineer at Tesla Motors and Richard Kim, the former BMW designer responsible for both the BMW i3 and BMW i8. Former SpaceX battery specialist Porter Harris is also on the payroll, as is Silva Hiti, who was responsible for the powertrain on the original Chevrolet Volt. Former BMW designer Page Beermann is also listed as an employee, as well as countless other hires from BMW, Audi, Apple, Hulu and SpaceX.
To date, we’ve yet to see what Faraday Future’s first electric car will look like, but thanks to The Verge, we’ve learned two very important things in the past week. Firstly we’ll get to see the car first hand at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and secondly, the car being built by this energetic and well-staffed startup will be nothing like we’ve seen before.
Earlier this month, the tech website was given an exclusive tour of the Faraday Future headquarters, where it tried to piece together just what makes this electric automaker different. While Faraday Future kept its vehicular details vague, The Verge managed to conduct interviews with various key members of the design team to uncover more information than we’ve ever had before about this enigmatic company.
Read The Verge‘s account of its Faraday Future tour, and it’s fairly obvious that like Tesla Motors, this new startup doesn’t want to be just another automaker. While Faraday Futures is producing a brand-new autonomous electric car which will embody a classic design language well known by fans of luxury electric cars around the world, what goes on inside the car is just as important as the vehicle itself.
Indeed, in discussing the founding of Faraday Futures, Sampson reiterates the need to produce a car which is more than just a way of getting from A to B. Instead, he noted a desire to see more connectivity in cars, allowing them to integrate with our modern lifestyle far more fluidly.
“As soon as you get in your car, you lose that level of connectivity,” he said of modern cars. “Today’s cars aren’t meeting the needs of today’s people, let alone generations yet to come. The kids of tomorrow will be wanting to be connected all the time.”
What does this mean? Like Tesla, we’re expecting a car in which a central computer system and always-on Internet connection makes it easy to update features and capabilities via over-the-air updates. But while Tesla pioneered the concept of adding additional features or improving operability via over-the-air updates, it seems Faraday Futures wants to go even further, blurring the lines between a car and a digital device with the help of cloud-connected big data.
“If I plan my journey, the car should know my journey and some of the places I want to visit along the way, because it knows my preferences. The car should begin to learn my desires, and not just me as owner or user, but the people who are with me,” he said. “It should be a much more social event to be in the car, to interact with people inside and outside the car.”
But what grabs our attention more than anything else is the hint from Sampson that Faraday Future is considering a brand-new ownership model for its car.
“Uber, for instance, is a new way of traveling, a new way of getting about,” he said. “Some people are considering not even having a car. The cars of the future have got to meet those needs.”
This hints that Faraday Future is looking to leverage autonomous vehicle technology to offer a car that can be used as both a traditional vehicle and in a car-sharing scenario. In that way, customers could request their cars meet them, or perhaps even simply hire or hail an automated car in the same way that they can book an Über vehicle from their smartphones today.
There’s an even more intriguing option too: that Faraday Future may do away with the traditional automotive ownership model altogether, offering its cars as a subscription based service.
“I don’t have to buy one compromise vehicle, I can just have use of the perfect model when I need it, like a subscription service. We now subscribe to music; we used to buy music,” Sampson said.
That quote suggests owners might subscribe to a Faraday Future vehicle in much the same way as we might subscribe to a mobile telephone talk plan, but there’s also another option: owning the base vehicle and swapping it for another one when needed.
That particular thought makes sense when you consider that Sampson was previously employed at Trexa, an electric vehicle company which specialised in an electric vehicle chassis onto which owners could put different bodies. A USP of Trexa’s initial business model was that owners could drive to a swap station and exchange their vehicle body for a new one or indeed temporarily swap out their car’s body, allowing someone to ‘borrow’ a pickup body for their car at the weekend but drive a sedan to work during the week.
While we doubt Faraday Future’s business model will extend that far, the thought is enough to get us very excited about what we’ll see in January at CES — and makes us wonder if Faraday Future has what it takes to follow Tesla’s lead or simply become another automotive footnote in history.
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