The auto industry is in a transitional era. Consumers expect their cars to do everything their smartphones do, so automakers are adding more and more features to keep us coddled and connected even as they take the first steps toward the day robots do the driving. This presents an increasingly tricky challenge: Incorporating sophisticated infotainment systems and apps, complex semi-autonomous technology, and myriad other features without making the car confusing, overwhelming, or distracting.
Meanwhile, exterior design is ever more homogeneous. Fuel economy requirements demand efficient aerodynamics, and because everyone must adhere to the laws of physics, it’s hard to design a car that’s both sleek and original. Safety standards—another set of rules and regulations everyone must follow—also make it hard to stand out.
Still, some designers rise to the challenge, somehow working within these constraints to create truly exciting and innovative automobiles. We asked some of our favorite designers within the auto industry and beyond it for their thoughts on the best designs of the year.