Inside Goodwood’s FoS Future Lab
Image credit: Jonathan Wilson
E&T recently visited the Goodwood Festival of Speed to tour the FoS Future Lab and witness exclusive vehicle unveilings.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed, as the modern world knows it, really began in 1992, when the current Duke of Richmond followed in his grandfather's footsteps and hosted a private motor event in the grounds of the family's Goodwood estate, near Chichester, West Sussex.
In the years since, the Goodwood Festival of Speed has mushroomed in size and stature to become a sporting calendar fixture, attracting hundreds of thousands of people across the Festival weekend in early July - a sort of Glastonbury for petrolheads, vintage motor enthusiasts and car companies of all (racing) stripes.
With its roots in track racing, and the estate's famous 1.16-mile Hill Climb timing events, there is a constant barrage of engine noise from whichever cars are currently being pitted against each other, the air redolent with the heady scent of smoking tyres and hot fuel fumes, the Festival's signature fragrance that hangs over the fields for the weekend. Be it F1, Nascar, rally, Indy car, supercar, superbikes, vintage or classic sports cars, the Festival of Speed has become synonymous with motor racing.
In recent years, too, and in keeping with wider automotive industry trends, the festival has piloted a route beyond cars and mobility; one of the popular attractions for visitors across the weekend is now the FoS Future Lab, Goodwood's next-generation technology experience.
E&T toured the FoS Future Lab pavilion, as well as bearing witness to the reveal of several exclusive new future mobility products. We also snatched a few moments on some of the neighbouring major automakers show stands, just because.
Australian start-up Alauda Racing used the event to launch Airspeeder, a new airborne motorsport for the 21st century that made its global public debut at Goodwood.
Alauda hopes to use its technology to develop a world-beating flying sports car for sale to the public, with the Mk. IV octocopter capable of speeds up to 200km/h and offering a power-to-weight ratio "superior to an F-18 fighter jet".
Matt Pearson, founder and CEO of Alauda Racing, the driving force behind the Airspeeder race series, said: “Flying cars are no longer a fantasy, they are a reality and Goodwood Festival of Speed is the perfect place to introduce Airspeeder to the world. We’ve taken design cues from the golden era of racing, and we’re sure the tens of thousands of enthusiasts present will instantly appreciate this evolution of motorsport. Totally absorbing, and all electric, it will appeal to a whole new generation of race fans.”
At the media demo, held at the Goodwood Aerodrome, the unmanned (in this instance) Mk. IV drone demonstrated impressive near-vertical lift-off, followed by dramatic speed and agility in the air. It also then unexpectedly took itself up to a spectacular height, flying away from its paddock base and out of sight.
Speaking to the crowd, Pearson drily noted, "I promised you excitement", as two operators ran across the field to rescue the errant drone, now located somewhere beyond the horizon. "This is early stage technology, nascent technology", Pearson added.
Moving across to the main Festival site, there was the unveiling and launch of Europe’s first autonomous delivery vehicle: Kar-go by Academy of Robotics. Powered by Nvidia, the electric green machine is designed to deliver groceries, takeaway food or any other product as a last-mile solution.
The team at the Academy of Robotics has already secured patents for its package management system’s internal sorting functionality; Kar-go's traffic navigation and re-routing method, and its continuous under-vehicle scanning – technology which the team affectionately refers to as its 'Little Feet Sensor'.
This enables Kar-go to see under cars and then make several thousand calculations per second, so it can determine whether there is a moving object behind or not and what direction it is moving in. This technology will help Kar-go safely navigate busy residential streets, where human little feet may be about to step out from behind vehicles.
The next reveal was the international debut of the world’s first long-range solar car, Lightyear One. Lightyear was founded in 2016 by alumni of Solar Team Eindhoven, which won the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in 2013, 2015 and 2017. Lightyear has already received several awards, grants and support from key investors.
Lightyear One is constructed from high-tech materials to have the lowest weight possible while maintaining stringent passenger safety, and the car is propelled by four independently driven wheels, so no energy is lost in transit from the engine to the wheel. The roof and hood are comprised of five square metres of integrated solar cells in safety glass so strong that a fully-grown adult can walk on them without causing dents.
In addition to solar power, Lightyear One can be charged at a (fast) charging station or even a regular outlet: according to the company, overnight charging from a standard 230V socket can provide enough energy to travel up to 400km.
The final new product reveal before we entered the FoS Future Lab pavilion itself was the UK debut of the Case IH autonomous tractor concept, promising driverless technology to boost agricultural precision and productivity. This must surely be the first - and most dramatic - tractor reveal in E&T's history.
Drawing back the rippling red silk cover, the gigantic, gleaming red Case IH was unveiled. The CNH Industrial autonomous tractor concept has been designed to allow completely remote deployment, monitoring and control of the machines. The user can choose a job from a pre-programmed menu simply by selecting the vehicle, choosing the field and then setting the tractor out on its task.
Both the machine and any attached implements can be monitored and controlled via either a desktop computer or a tablet interface, accessible remotely by the farmer from their pick-up truck, whilst busy elsewhere (eg tending livestock) or even from the comfort of the farmhouse kitchen.
Giddy from the excitement of seeing an autonomous tractor unveiling, we finally entered the mysteriously darkened environment of the FoS Future Labs pavilion. Presumably the future is going to be dark and mysterious?
Whatever the future holds, the best way to see it could be from the cockpit of one of AeroMobil's flying cars, a full concept model of which made its UK debut here. Pre-orders were being taken at the show.
Robots are clearly going to be a big part of the future. Reach Robotics was in the Lab to offer a future gaming experience, with its MekaMon robots doing battle in both the physical arena and in AR.
Alauda Racing displayed a blessedly static example of its Mk. IV octocopter manned racing drone, this one done out in a seductively sporty glossy red colourway, suspended above the heads of Lab visitors.
We also sampled the world’s first edible packaging from start-up Notpla. The result of five years' research by a team of design engineers and chemists from Imperial College London, horrified at the gargantuan amount of single-use plastic waste they saw at the London Marathon, the Ooho 'one-gulp' liquid portion is served in an edible membrane made from seaweed and other plant extracts.
During the 2019 London Marathon, the team successfully dispensed 60,000 of these edible 'sachets' containing Lucozade Sport to grateful runners. The membrane can be filled with any cold liquid, popped in the mouth to burst the pod and release the drink, then the virtually tasteless membrane easily chewed and swallowed like a Fruit Pastille (other jelly-like sweets are available).
A model of the ExoMars Rover was also in attendance, in tandem with Airbus. A company called AstroPlant was also in the Lab, on the lookout for any space farmers who want to help grow food in space and even on Mars.
At the centre of the FoS Future Lab was a gigantic electronic artwork, "a spectacular multi-layered cybernetic cityscape titled The Emergent City, by renowned British artist, Stanza," as it was referred to by our audio-visual tour guide.
"A unique sculptural data experience that explores the concept of global data connectivity and the future collaborative possibilities of Connected Cities", is how the information board alongside the blinking installation described it.
Meanwhile, Sapan Shah of the event's lead sponsor, Mastercard, said, "Every month, the world’s urban population grows by six million and by 2050 more than 70 per cent of the population will live in urban areas. Through our collaboration with Stanza, we are asking people to reimagine the possibilities for cities and urban centres in response to this growth.
"Cities have been getting 'smarter' since their inception, but the inclusion of any new technology needs to ensure that we bring the entire community along to create inclusive, connected and dynamic places to live in the future.”
Inside the Lab, Siemens was demonstrating how it is supporting the industry of the future, from car production automation and infrastructure through to new power sources, while outside the Lab it was supporting its own hipster credentials with an immaculately restored 1970s Volkswagen camper van.
Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, this vintage beauty was on show adjacent to Volkswagen's own mammoth stand, where VW's next-generation camper van itself was on show. The ID Buzz has been seen before, but it's always a pleasure to get up close and personal with it once again.
This time, there was even a Buzz Junior for the little ones - VW clearly focused on an all-electric future.
The company's new-found zealous commitment to the electric vehicle was palpable, the entire stand given over to clean energy generation and its forthcoming vehicle releases, such as the ID 3. Order books for VW's first new all-electric car opened earlier this year, with tens of thousands of people instantly putting down a deposit. We're not sure whether this psychedelic paint job will be an option or not.
Meanwhile, bang opposite the VW stand was Ford's own, the two automotive giants anchoring the Festival's public display space. Ford continued to exhibit its playful side, in the spirit of recent Festival appearances, with a helter-skelter monorail ride around the perimeter of the stand, which took squealing riders past the bright orange Focus ST powering vertically up the side of the stand, heading for the clouds. 'Scuse ST while I kiss the sky.
Naturally, cars are heading nowhere without tyres to roll on. Michelin displayed its 'Vision', a concept tyre that is airless, connected, rechargeable, custom-made, organic and sustainable, which can in fact act as both tyre and wheel. It looks fantastic, which begs the question: when will we see this on tomorrow's roads?
Celebrating the automotive highlights of yesteryear has long been Goodwood's stock in trade. Now, with the FoS Future Lab concept established onsite, and the continuous R&D of its partners and exhibitors, everyone can get a peek at the mobility solutions of tomorrow. It'll all be here sooner than we think.
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