Sci-fi films set in the near future aim to depict a world that's recognisably ours – with a few futuristic touches.
And the best way to do that? Fill that future world with the brands of today. Sometimes that can be clunky (remember Will Smith's Converse in I, Robot?), sometimes it can date the film badly (Pan-Am and Atari in Blade Runner, anyone?).
But when it comes to populating the roads of tomorrow, film-makers have put the pedal to the metal and hared off into the future at top speed. These vehicles may be the stuff of fantasy, but the companies that conjured them up are very real – and we hope that they're working on making them a reality sooner rather than later.
Audi Fleet Shuttle Quattro - Ender's Game
Vorsprung durch Technik, or "Progress through technology," is Audi's philosophy – and boy, do they take it seriously.
The Audi Fleet Shuttle Quattro is Audi's first attempt at creating a completely virtual car from mind to paper to screen, without ever leaving a single tyre mark on the streets – except for the fictional roads in Ender's Game.
Evolving the design language seen in the Audi RSQ featured in I, Robot (see below), the Fleet Shuttle Quattro features understated green lighting, smoked glass and the mark of every futuristic car, gullwing doors. Although we've only seen glimpses of the Fleet Shuttle Quattro, we're expecting it to pack some epic futuristic gadgetry under its hood – and hopefully some kit that future real-world models can emulate.
Bugatti - Elysium
In Neill Blomkamp's Elysium, the lucky one percent got to live on an orbiting space habitat while the rest of humanity was left to slum it on Earth in a dystopian hellhole. Naturally, luxury brands like Armani and Versace figured heavily – but who cares about the fashion? It’s the flying Bugatti that everyone’s got their eyes on.
Blomkamp reached out to the luxury brands featured in the film – not for product placement, but to enhance the realism of the film's future setting. After all, as he told the Wall Street Journal, "If you had a bunch of rich people living up there, they would have the equivalent of Ferraris and Bugattis that they fly around with. Basically, what I wanted to do was make a Bugatti that’s 150 years in the future, and those don’t come with wheels."
[Image: Art of VFX]
Lexus 2054 - Minority Report
What Steven Spielberg wants, Steven Spielberg gets. So at his request, a 2054 version of the Lexus was created for Tom Cruise to tear about in for action thriller Minority Report.
Although the futuristic coupé can’t propel itself up into the sky, it comes with some smart extras: a Weather Sensitive Response System adjusts the car's tyre traction and window tint intensity according to the climatic conditions, while dent-resistant memory metal automatically fixes dents and dings.
But our favourite is the Auto Valet feature, which automatically parks the car and charges it after dropping its owner off at his or her destination. As parallel parking haters, we'd love that – and with self-driving cars rapidly approaching commercial reality, we might not have to wait for long.
Audi RSQ - I, Robot
Surprise, surprise: it’s another Audi, this time created for the Will Smith movie I, Robot, set in 2035. From the front, it may look just like any well-rounded Audi cruising on the road. Step to the side and you’ll see what sets it forward 21 years: the wheels – or should we call them balls?
The spherical tyre design means that the car can be driven in any direction, and because you don't even need to use the wheel to steer, there's no need to worry about your arms getting hopelessly tangled as you pitch the car sideways.
So sleek was the design, Audi used it as inspiration for the iconic R8. Sadly, the world was not yet ready for spherical wheels. Check back in 20-odd years and maybe something approaching the RSQ will be on sale at your local dealership.