Faraday Future’s Design DNA, the FFZERO1

Kicking off CES 2016 the start-up electric car company unveils a concept race car

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Already working nights and weekends on their first production vehicle, Faraday Future’s product creation chiefs—Richard Kim, Design and Nick Sampson, Engineering—took on another project; the FFZERO1, a concept race car. At other automotive companies the concepts come before the production vehicles, but there’s nothing typical about Faraday. They’re a true California start up working on bringing an electric car to market three times faster than other manufacturers, yet they’re starting from scratch building a brand as well as cars. "Since we’re not a company that has been around for awhile we don’t have a history or a heritage. So we had to build our DNA very recently" said Kim during our recent interview. "The first production vehicle is similar in its values to what we’re showing [at CES]

, but it’s kind of a different subject matter.” Overnight the FFZERO1, being the first thing they’re showing the world, has become their heritage and sets an expectation for what’s to come from 18 month old Faraday in the very near future.

The FFZERO1 was born from a doodle on Richard Kim’s desk. When Nick Sampson saw it he stated that the Variable Platform Architecture being developed for all Faraday Future vehicles could even support the radical race car on paper before them. So they decided to use that sketch as the vision and plug in their design and engineering talent to bring it to life. That talent pool pulls from BMW (where Kim led design of both the i3 and i8) and Tesla (where Sampson had worked on vehicle and chassis engineering), plus several big name non-automotive technology companies. Despite the braintrust, Faraday is not held back by employees rooted in old school process. As Kim says, “We’re a youthful group, I’m one of the older guys here and I’m 34.”

A youthful spirit and start up mentality have enabled Kim’s team to find faster and more productive design processes. “We met every impossible milestone because of one guy who brought in his hobby, his Oculus Rift beta headset,” Kim explained about a junior member of the team who has a video game habit. The VR headset quickly became a valuable tool to rapidly test user interface and control layouts and also walk around the vehicle to gauge presence and proportion without having to build a traditional clay model. “That’s not the guy that’s of high value at a typical car company and for us, he’s our savior.”

While the FFZERO1 is a concept race car, the design process Kim’s team used to create it was the same as how they’re approaching production vehicles. “Our core philosophy is to design from the inside out. From the users’ needs first. And then we build that car around them.” When asked about users’ or drivers’ needs Kim answered that “the customer wants comfort, connectivity; they want dis-connectivity, ease of use. They want something that knows them. Almost AI.” The AI scenario Faraday presents for the supercar is that the vehicle could drive itself to the racetrack ahead of its owner, run a few laps and record the ideal apex and brake points for each turn and then coach the driver through an augmented reality display when they’re running laps on their own.

The track scenario isn’t for most consumers, but neither is the FFZERO1. The idea of mixing autonomous driving in to the daily routine is a clever and sensible one, however. “We’re trying to blend this autonomous experience—we’re still car guys, we’re an enthusiast, performance-oriented company and because autonomy is coming doesn’t mean it has to be the absolute solution to this awesome experience, it can actually be an aid to the driver experience,” Kim said. We can imagine a more practical scenario of driving yourself to the airport in a Faraday Future car and then the car driving itself back to your home. It would have your return flight information to monitor your arrival time and combined with traffic reporting leave you home perfectly timed to pick you up the moment you step out to the curb. Like KITT, our childhood love.

So far as the FFZERO1 goes as a stake in the ground for Faraday’s design language, the company’s press release included a mention of the supercar’s “soon-to-be-signature UFO line,” suggesting that line wrapping the vehicle might be a consistent element across all forms rendered on to their Variable Platform Architecture. We’re hoping the minimal-yet-fierce lighting design is another.

While the FFZERO1 creates a new wave of excitement about the vision of Faraday Future, the Variable Platform Architecture—best understood by watching the video above—proves their potential for bringing a range of car styles to the market quickly. How quickly, however, we don’t yet know though Sampson confidently stated it will be “within a couple years” which just might be feasible given their new $1B facility being built in North Las Vegas.

Event images by Josh Rubin, all other images and videos courtesy of Faraday Future