You Can Chill on These Futuristic, Tiny Benches or Drive Away Slowly

You Can Chill on These Futuristic, Tiny Benches or Drive Away Slowly

The winners of Ford’s Smart Mobility Challenge this year were interesting, with a rideable bench the designers call “TOD.” That’s short for “talk or drive,” according to Ford. The award-winning design tries to scale back on the need for cars within urban centres, with what’s basically…just a smaller car. Minus the roof, of course.

I’m being a smart arse, because, actually, it’s a pretty cool idea. The two design students that developed the project, Corentin Janel and Guillaume Innocenti, have been awarded a grant by Ford of Europe to make a “TOD” protoype.

The design is fully modular, and has two distinct modes. Ford isn’t kidding when it says this is a rideable bench. It’s supposed to be good at being a seat, in a so-called “static” mode, as the carmaker describes:

“TOD” is designed as an adaptable system with a static mode and mobile mode. In static mode, it is a bench that can be extended to accommodate three people. Accessories such as chairs and corners can easily by added using a plug-in style kit system, while a flat square can be connected to two benches to form a picnic table.

And it’s also decent at moving people around, in its “mobile” mode, per Ford:

In mobile mode, the sit-on scooter is for up to two people, with a maximum speed of 20 km/h. A hatch in the middle provides space for luggage, while stretching bands on the back and sides enable users to transport small and long items. Users can locate and book a bench or sit-on scooter using the dedicated app.

The max speed is pretty slow, topping out at about 19 km per hour, but that’s not bad when you consider the context of the design. “TOD” is something you could find in a courtyard or park, maybe a footpath. I wouldn’t want to go too fast if I were riding one of these things. In any case, the speed isn’t the point.

It’s a cool design that Ford says would make for sustainable urban mobility, which likely means this would be an EV. Its creators imagine it would be partnered with an app. It would be like a better, actually-useful version of those Bird scooters people leave unceremoniously strewn on the footpath in big cities.

The world’s cities are desperately in need of less traffic congestion. Paris and London have already started looking for alternatives that can work better for dense urban centres. “TOD” may be a little quirky, but it could be just the ticket.

This post has been updated since it was first published.