The designers at McLaren Applied Technologies put together a bold vision of the future outside of any current series regulations to show what could be done if Formula One would just let them. The MP4-X concept sounds as if it’s straight out of science fiction, and we’d love to see some of its ideas become reality.

McLaren Technology Group’s Group Brand Director John Allert had this to say on the site about the project:

We have combined a number of F1’s key ingredients – speed, excitement and performance, with the sport’s emerging narratives - such as enclosed cockpits to enhance driver safety, and hybrid power technologies.

Formula 1 is the ultimate gladiatorial sport, and the future we envisage will be a high tech, high performance showcase that excites fans like no other sport.

Ooh, shots fired in the closed cockpit debate. While this car treats them as an eventuality in Formula One, it goes about integrating them in a clever, high-tech way, using cameras to provide a 360° view of the driver’s surroundings through a head-mounted augmented vision display.

An additional heads-up display would show the position of other competitors on track, locations of yellow flags and incidents and other on-track information.

The canopy itself would be able to adapt to different on-track conditions, such as low light or intense sun.

The MP4-X envisions a car powered by less traditional means—where the internal combustion engine is designed from the ground-up to be used with a hybrid and solar system.

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Further charging could be gained from inductive coupling integrated into the track as well, allowing even more of the car to be powered by sustainable energy.

Batteries for energy storage would be integrated into structural components to save space and weight.

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McLaren Applied Technologies Systems Engineer Anthony Law explains how a radically different powertrain could open up the rest of the car’s design:

With a new approach to the internal combustion engine, you could radically redistribute the chassis layout at the rear of the car, with different areas that could be exploited aerodynamically. Such technology could be beautifully packaged around the entire chassis.

Some of that technology is a blast from the past—but in a good way, from when technological developments in F1 were far less held back by the series rulebook.

Without having to stay within the limits of F1’s current regulations, McLaren envisions a return to ground-effect aerodynamics, which have been banned since 1982. With new, smaller, less thirsty engines and better design technologies that could help them design large venturi tunnels underneath a car, McLaren thinks ground effects could successfuly make a comeback in F1.

Active aerodynamics are another area McLaren sees making a comeback. Electrodes fitted to the MP4-X wings could automatically adjust the car’s aero for downforce in the corners that could be taken out for straights. Those electrodes could also turn on in the corners to turn the air around the car into plasma.

Shape-memory alloys used in the bodywork could also allow the car to adjust its shape to different on-track conditions.

Even the tires are high-tech, with aerodynamic covers that promise real-time monitoring and and an onboard pressure regulator that could provide automatic, on-the-fly tire pressure adjustment. Felipe Massa can’t wait.

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McLaren even envisions high-tech driver’s gear that would monitor biotelemetry and adjust the car’s behavior when fatigue was detected, plus racing suits made of smart fabrics that could pinpoint areas of trauma in an accident.

Onboard controls could be radically different, too—controlling the car with brain waves or gestures instead of a traditional wheel. While I’m not as sold on this idea as a problem that needed solving (wheels and pedals are fun!), it’s cool to think that it could be possible.

On-board structural monitoring and negative-energy materials that can attenuate forces from impacts and recover their original shape would help the car of the future become safer than ever.

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Fans could be shown targeted ads on the side of the car, and get a view that’s completely synced with the driver’s point of view.

The full microsite for the project is here, and it’s all an interesting read on everything that could be possible in the near future.

Some items listed off in McLaren’s dreams of the future are things they’re already working on, such as better monitoring driver performance and health. Others, such as the energy recovery and hybrid systems, are based on existing technologies that went into the P1 hypercar and other motorsport projects.

Photo credits: McLaren


Contact the author at stef.schrader@jalopnik.com.

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