Check Out This Instagram Account That Uses AI To Create Some Of The Coolest Cars That Don’t Exist

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We’re in the middle of a sort of strange revolution right now, one that I’m not sure I expected, but I can absolutely see happening around me. It’s an images-created-with-artificial intelligence (AI) revolution, and while I’m not really fond of that term (I don’t think what we’re seeing here is actually “intelligence,” artificial or not) I have to say I’m very excited by what’s happening, and have already enjoyed playing with these new, peculiar tools. Of course, the only good use for a new bit of computer technology is to see what sorts of car images it can make, and these new AI tools like DALL•E have been great for making cars that don’t exist. There’s an Instagram account out there now called Automotive.ai  that I think is doing some of the most interesting work with these tools, and I want to show you what I mean, so, you know, prepare accordingly.

Now, I’m not exactly sure what tool or combination of AI tools the owner of this account is using, nor am I sure exactly what sort of post-processing or Photoshopping is going on, either. I’m not sure that especially matters, and the account owner seems reluctant to divulge those details, which I absolutely understand. I don’t really need to know the exact grade of wire used in an Alexander Calder sculpture or mobile to appreciate it, and I think the same goes here.

What I can tell is that Automotive.ai seems to specialize in mash-ups of sorts, taking two kinds of cars and having the AI meld them together to create something new, often something new and strange and wonderful. For example, look at this melding of Nissan Z cars and one of my personal favorite cars, the Nissan Pao:

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A post shared by Automotive AI (@automotive.ai)

Holy crap, those are fantastic, right? There’s definite Z-car proportions and feel, but with the retro-inspired details of the Pao. It’s so good. I guess Automotive.ai liked the mainstream Nissan/Pike car mashups, too, because there’s more, like this combination of Nissans Figaro and Juke:

 

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A post shared by Automotive AI (@automotive.ai)

Again, that works so much better than you’d think. The Pike Factory elements make these feel like Juke generations from the ’60s and ’70s, too.

Here’s another mashup that makes you realize there’s something you didn’t even know could exist, yet somehow you need more of it, desperately: BMW and American muscle cars, all whipped together into a frothy bit of wonderful. Look, just look:

 

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A post shared by Automotive AI (@automotive.ai)

Those are incredible, right? How do those work so damn well, and how are the styles mixed with such balance? Some of those manage to hit just that right balance between BMW Neue Klasse and ’60s American Iron, and I’m not even sure I could describe it properly in words, and I freaking write for a living. Whatever the hell is going on in that unknowable black box inside some remote servers running these if-then chains of AI programs, it sure works well for whatever the hell this actually is.

Let’s look at a slightly different one, because this one isn’t so much a mashup as it is an imagined alternate history:

 

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A post shared by Automotive AI (@automotive.ai)


These images celebrate an imagined 70-year history of the Smart Car, showing Smart Car development going back to the 1930s or 1940s, and incorporating both period synthetic photographs and illustrations. They’re all so damn plausible, and feel like so many microcars of the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s and ’80s, from Trojans to Isettas to Scootacars to Messerschmitts and on and on.

It’s clear the AI here is referencing many, many thousands of reference photos of cars of a given era to synthesize the right combination of details to make these work,

I’ve rarely felt like I could be replaced by a computer (my particular form of idiocy usually causes computing devices to wonder what this thing called “love” is before exploding) but, shit, this one does make me feel funny. I mean, these are the kinds of ridiculous things that I have drawn for years, or, recently, have been demanding talented people like The Bishop do here.

Even so, this is still just a tool, and it’s not like the AI can just conjure up the idea; there’s always a place for the artist, even for such automated tools like these. It’s still strange, though.

 

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Occasionally, we get a bit more of aa glimpse into the methods used; the above set of images are the result of this prompt:

I asked the AI to generate a “car designed by [designer’s name]” with little or no additional prompting. To varying degrees, the AI model has internalized the personal design languages of prominent and less-prominent designers.

1: Yukihiko Yaguchi
2: Ralph Gilles
3: Jack Telnack
4: Bill Mitchell
5: Virgil Exner
6: Chris Bangle
7: Jerry Hirschberg
8: Harley Earl

The results, as always, are fascinating, and while I’m not sure all are terribly accurate, they are great ways to see how a particular designer’s work is represented via online images, which is telling in itself.
David really wanted me to include this also amazing mash-up of Porsche and Land Rover, from modernity to what looks like the 1970s:

 

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A post shared by Automotive AI (@automotive.ai)

There’s so much incredible stuff here: Honda Elements over the past 85 years, the Edsels reality cruelly took from us, Mustang-Challenger love children, and so much more. There’s even a set of forgotten taillights! Just go through it and revel at all the synthetically-generated madness. It’s worth it.
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24 Responses

  1. Will be interesting to see what other white collar jobs could be replaced by AI in the future. I really don’t hate any of these designs… I also don’t hate a lot of recent stuff on the street now, but its all just so meh, I just don’t even care…it might as well be designed by a machine. Weird that the AI generated stuff evokes more emotion.

  2. CAD(Chinese automotive Design) is furiously taking notes.

    I would love to own or see most of these in person.

    Just like with art, I don’t think this will replace automotive design, rather it will be another tool in the designers chest to see what works/what doesn’t etc.

  3. I am totally there for both the Z-Pao and the Jugaro! What surprises me most is that there are several versions of each, and all of them look great and ready to build.

    These are better than anything I’ve seen a human designer create in at least the last few years.

  4. The weakness I noted with the AI is that it now has much more respect for practicality (no more doors ending in weird places) but still not hard points (the Edsels are much more differentiated from Fords than they would be in real life).

  5. Here’s a microcar I had the AI crap out, which has a striking resemblance to a design I’ve been working on:

    https://i.imgur.com/O8j6TSj.jpg

    Look at that. A no bullshit design that focuses on all out function. Low drag, with the looks coming into their own, even though they aren’t a major consideration. THAT is the what sports cars should be. It’s also how you get massive EV range on tiny battery packs, to keep costs, and more importantly, weight, down as low as possible.

    Tired of the all-sizzle, no steak, overstyled, overweight, overpriced BS that is ubiquitous on today’s auto market. Give me slippery, light, simple, low-tech machines that don’t need much power to go fast, and then shove in them as much power as can fit.

  6. “Now, I’m not exactly sure what tool or combination of AI tools the owner of this account is using, nor am I sure exactly what sort of post-processing or Photoshopping is going on, either. I’m not sure that especially matters, and the account owner seems reluctant to divulge those details, which I absolutely understand.”

    It matters a little bit, because these all seem way too well done, which means this is either the result of an amazing AI engine or- most likely, in my opinion – heavily edited images starting with an AI-generated design. And the designs are great, but if they’re heavily edited, the part of the instagram bio that says “brought to you by AI” isn’t entirely accurate.

    And to be honest, I kinda hope this is not an actual super advanced Ai, because if it is, holy shit, this is getting out of hand.

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