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La Macchina

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La Macchina
La Macchina
aka "The Car" or "The Machine"
Production Envisaged for 2020 at the latest
Class Hypercar
Body Style 5 Different Body Styles
Length Various
Width Various
Height Various
Wheelbase Various
Weight Various
Transmission Optional
Engine MYT Engine or Quasiturbine
Power 5,000 hp, 6,000 lb-ft of torque
Similar None
Designer Ardeshir and Cyrus Mehta

La Macchina (pronounced La Mahk-ki-nah, meaning "The Car" or "The Machine" in Italian; the plural of La Macchina is Le Macchine, pronounced Ley Mahk-ki-ney) is an automobile conceived by father-and-son team Ardeshir and Cyrus Mehta. (The Italian language is used in the naming of this car in homage to the great Italian car-makers and designers of the past, including Ettore Bugatti who, though he made his cars in France, was Italian by birth.)

La Macchina is intended to be the most powerful, most technologically advanced, fastest, quickest, "smartest", safest, most reliable, most ergonomic, most durable and most upgradable car in the world. Some benchmark goals for La Macchina are for it to have a top speed of 500 km/h (311 mph), a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 0.33 seconds, and a quarter-mile elapsed time of 3 seconds. One special edition of La Macchina is also intended to be able to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 3 minutes. (In comparison, the Bugatti Veyron has a top speed of 407 km/h or 255 mph; a 0-100 km/h—or 0-62 mph—time of 2.5 seconds, and a quarter-mile elapsed time of 10.2 seconds. It has not yet been tested on the Nürburgring.)

To achieve the projected goals for La Macchina, technologies from around the world have been incorporated into it. While the majority of these technologies are currently available, they have never before been combined in a single vehicle. For example, its engine will be able to output 5,000 horsepower while weighing less than 90 kg (about 200 lb). To give another example, its wheels are designed to be able to generate 10g of grip, thanks to the downforce created by a suction fan similar to—but much more powerful than—the one used by Jim Hall's 1970 Chaparral 2J and in 1978 by the "B" variant of the Brabham BT46B F1 entry, known also as the "fan car".

(These are just a couple of examples; details of all the technologies intended to be incorporated into La Macchina are given below.)

Five versions of the La Macchina are planned. Each version may have numerous models.

Design History

The motivation behind the design of La Macchina came in 2007 with the observation the that the automobile industry—both with respect to street-legal cars and to racing cars—has severely stagnated during the last three or four decades. Racing regulations in particular have banned many advanced technologies, such as regenerative braking, traction control and the use of suction fans for producing downforce, among others. And street-legal cars also use engines, brakes and suspension systems—among other technologies—that are essentially only modified versions of those invented in the early part of the 20th Century. The idea behind La Macchina, then, was to use every conceivable engineering advancement to create an automobile which lives up to the potentials of modern technology.

Over a period of two years, research was carried out into all the available technology and a concerted effort was made to try and incorporate it into La Macchina. The vast majority of the technology for La Macchina exists today (mid-2009).

Versions

The original plan was to have just one model, but as development progressed it was decided that five models would suit La Macchina best. These models are as follows:

1. The standard model, a two-seater (or a two-plus-two-seater) sports car, to be simply called La Macchina;

2. A single-seat, minimalist, super-light-weight and super-small version, akin to a street-legal go-cart, maximising quickness and immediacy of reaction to every driver input, while sacrificing some top speed, to be called La Macchina Lampo (the word lampo being Italian for "lightning");

3. A people-carrier or minivan version, to be called La Macchina Grande (the word grande meaning "large" in Italian), which would combine everyday family convenience with as much super-car-like performance as technologically possible. On the same platform, a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) version would also be built, which combines extreme off-road capability with great ruggedness and, again, as much super-car-like performance as possible. This SUV version is to be called La Macchina SUV. (In modern Italian, it is common to pronounce the acronym "SUV" as soov).

4. A luxury car version, to be called La Macchina di Lusso (meaning "The Luxury Car" in Italian), with all the modern amenities desired in a luxury car, such as a mini-fridge, an espresso-maker, silky smooth ride, [automatic climate control], and heated/cooled seats, mirrors and windows. The car would also take advantage of minor technologies never used before, such as magnetically-stabilised cup-holders.

... and lastly:

5. A pure racing (non-street-legal) version, maximising racing performance above all else, to be called La Macchina di Corsa (meaning "The Racing Car" in Italian).

Common Features

It should be noted that despite their varied themes, most of the features of La Macchina are common to all its versions, and while some of its versions have additional specialised features, these are comparatively few in number. The following features are common to all versions.

MYT Engine

MYT Engine

The MYT Engine (an abbreviation for "Mighty Yet Tiny engine", and intended to be pronounced simply as "Mighty Engine"), is designed by inventor Raphial Morgado of Angel Labs. It is capable of a 40-to-1 power-to-weight ratio (when power is measured in horsepower and weight in pounds). A 150 lb MYT Engine, just 14 inches (35.56 cm) long and 14 inches (35.56 cm) in diameter, and having a displacement of 848 cubic inches (almost 14 litres), can generate, with turbo charging and/or supercharging, over 3,000 horsepower and 4,000 lb-ft. of torque. It has very few parts—only about 50, compared with over 3,000 parts found in normal reciprocating engines—and so is very simple to manufacture and maintain. It can achieve a compression ratio as high as 70:1, enabling it to be used in diesel mode. It is modular: by replacing the rear cover of one MYT Engine and connecting another MYT Engine's chamber assembly (which adds only two inches to its length and little additional weight), one can obtain an engine with a displacement of 1,695 cubic inches (almost 28 litres) and a power-to-weight ratio as high as 40-to-1. (In comparison, even the best present-day supercharged or turbocharged F1 and Le Mans engines cannot generate much more than 2 or 3 horsepower per pound of weight). A 1,695 cubic-inch (27.8 litre) displacement MYT Engine weighing less than 90 kg—about 200 lb—would be able to generate more than 8,500 horsepower (6,338 kilowatts). Even if lower levels of efficiency were to be attained, 5,000 horsepower (3,728 kilowatts) and 6,000 lb-ft (8,136 newton-metres) of torque from such an engine are very reasonable estimates.

It is to be noted that the MYT Engine is scalable—for instance, a 35 lb MYT Engine could produce as much power as the engine of a present-day F1 race car. It is acknowledged that many customers might not want an engine providing 5,000 horsepower or 6,000 lb-ft torque, and may opt for a less powerful engine for the particular car they order. Since the all the parts of La Macchina—including the engine—are designed to simply snap into place (as described below at greater length), it would be easy to satisfy such customers.

The design of the MYT Engine enables the piston-dwell at top dead centre to be adjusted, and if it is set at about 12 degrees of crankshaft rotation, a near-complete combustion of the fuel is achieved. As a result, the MYT Engine's exhaust gases are much cooler than those of a normal reciprocating engine. In addition, more energy is obtained from the same amount of fuel, and there is minimal pollution. Furthermore, the MYT Engine can be used with many types of fuel, including renewable bio-fuels. For all these reasons, it is quite environmentally-friendly.

Quasiturbine

Quasiturbine

It is to be appreciated that the MYT Engine is not the only possible engine which can power La Macchina and accord it the levels of performance envisaged for it. One alternative engine for La Macchina is the Quasiturbine, a positive displacement turbine engine with a total displacement almost equal to the engine's own total volume. So, for instance, a cylindrical Quasiturbine just 14 inches (35.56 cm) in diameter and 14 inches (35.56 cm) long would have a displacement of almost 35 litres. This is even better than a 1,695 cubic-inch (27.8 litre) displacement MYT Engine, which would be a bit larger than 35 litres in total volume. In comparison to both the above, the Bugatti Veyron's engine, while being several times larger in volume, has a displacement of only 8 litres (488 cubic inches).

And like the MYT Engine, the four chambers of the Quasiturbine rotor generate four combustion "strokes" per rotor revolution. The Quasiturbine, in addition, has very few parts compared with a conventional reciprocating engine. It can also be used with photo-detonation. (The best way to burn fuel is with intense laser radiation, rather than with spark plugs. The laser ignites the fuel not just in one location but in a large swath, and as a result iginition can be more complete. This photo-detonation occurs at a slightly higher pressure than thermal ignition. The efficiency at low load factor of the photo-detonation engine is more than twice that of the conventional Otto cycle engine, and considering that the load factor of a car is on average about 10% to 15%, this is not a small difference.) The Quasiturbine is universal in relation to energy sources: liquid and gaseous fuel, hydrogen, steam, pneumatic, and hydraulic. The Quasiturbine also has a torque curve that permits it to operate without a transmission. One advantage the Quasiturbine has over the MYT Engine, and indeed over all current engines as well, is that its internal parts all undergo smooth circular motion: there is no "stop-and-go" motion as in the MYT Engine, nor reciprocating motion as in current internal combustion engines. In this and many other ways, the Quasiturbine may be an even better candidate for La Macchina than the MYT Engine. Indeed, the Quasiturbine is an ideal engine for at least the following reasons, as quoted at one of the pages on the Quasiturbine web site:

  • "Zero vibration (small piston engines are generally too shaky!)
  • "Compact (5 times less cumbersome [i.e., voluminous] than a piston engine)
  • "Lighter (5 times less heavy than an equivalent piston engine)
  • "Less noisy (without a muffler, 20 times less than an equivalent piston engine)
  • "More efficient and less polluting (500 times less NOx)"

Much more information about the Quasiturbine is provided at the Quasiturbine website.

As a result, La Macchina is not dependent upon any single engine technology.

Transmission

Both the MYT Engine and the Quasiturbine fire many more times per crankshaft revolution than a conventional engine, so both these engines develop high torque at relatively low rpms. As a result the MYT Engine doesn't really need a conventional transmission—a reverse gear, a "low gear" and a "high gear" would normally be all that's needed, especially given the super-abundance of power and torque available from a MYT Engine with an output of 5,000 horsepower and 6,000 lb-ft of torque. And the Quasiturbine doesn't even need a "low-gear" and a "high-gear".

Nevertheless, it is to be recognised that for many drivers, shifiting gears is part of the pleasure of driving a car, and therefore a conventional five- or six-speed gearbox will be offered as an option. Of course it will have to be strong enough to allow all that torque and power to be transmitted to the wheels without itself breaking down.

Suction-Assisted Downforce

La Macchina is designed to be equipped with one or more suction fans which will suck air from under the car, like Jim Hall's Chaparral 2J or the "B" variant of the Brabham BT46B F1 entry. In Hall's car, a 45-horsepower snowmobile engine was attached to two fans which sucked air from under the car, producing prodigious amounts of downforce at all speeds. La Macchina is designed with a similar system. However, it is designed with much more powerful engine(s) for the purpose, each with an output of several hundred horsepower, which creates so much downforce that the car sticks firmly to any ceiling even when standing still and with its main engine turned off. (The Chaparral 2J produced about 900 lb of downforce; it is therefore extremely reasonable to assume that an engine ten times as powerful will produce several thousands of pounds of donwforce.)

The suction fan(s) are located in the space under the bonnet which is freed up by having a small MYT Engine or Quasiturbine power the car, and/or the space occupied by the spare tire in other cars. A mesh or grill under the car prevents large road debris being sucked in along with the air. Whatever other solid material does get sucked in is removed by a centrifuge system similar to the constant-suction Dyson vacuum designed by James Dyson. The conical centrifuge creates a centrifugal force on the debris which causes it to gradually get pushed to the widest part of the cone, from which it falls into a hopper. The hopper can be periodically and automatically emptied when downforce is not needed. Any water that gets sucked up from wet pavement is flash-vaporised and gets expelled in the form of water vapour, along with the sucked-in air. The air and water vapour are primarily expelled via the car's exhaust system, which is made more ample for the purpose. However, it is envisaged that vents in front of the windshield and/or behind the rear window might also be provided for venting the air, providing an increase in the downforce.

The amount of downforce generated by the suction fan(s) is instantly controllable, by opening or closing valves which determine the amount of air being sucked by the fan(s). The driver, via the car's drive-by-wire computer—which is actually a supercomputer, capable of "Teraflops" (trillions of floating point operations per second) of speed—can reduce downforce at each tire at will so as to enable the car to slide in any manner desired. Regardless of the driver's settings, the car's drive-by-wire computer increases suction to its maximum setting automatically if the brakes are depressed to their maximum limit for a panic stop, or if the gas pedal is floored for maximum acceleration.

It is to be noted that the amount of downforce does not have to be as high as the amount of lateral grip. With very sticky tires, one can obtain up to three times as much lateral grip as there is downforce. So 3.5g of downforce provided by the suction fan is more than sufficient, with sticky tires, to provide as much as 10g of lateral grip. (It is to be noted that to achieve this at sea level in a car 6 ft wide, 15 ft long and weighing 3,000 lb, the atmospheric air pressure under the car would have to be reduced by less than 6%, which is well within the capacity of a powerful suction fan.) Lexan skirts, as in the Chaparral 2J, would be lowered when necessary to ensure the requisite amount of suction.

Of course it must be appreciated that for daily driving, a maximum of 10g of grip will not be used: in all probability, not even a quarter that amount will be needed, yet it would all the same be more than enough to enable La Macchina to outperform any other car made today. Also, during daily driving g-forces will be sporadic; during most of the drive there will be no appreciable g-force acting on the occupants. The maximum amount of grip will, therefore, almost never be required, except perhaps during a panic stop.

To prevent the tires flattening out when downforce is excessive, a sponge ring with varying densities of sponge is inserted between the tire and the wheel rim on which the tire is mounted. The sponge ring occupies all the space which, in a normal tire, would be occupied by air: there is therefore no need to inflate the tire. The outermost layers of the sponge ring, touching the tire itself, are of the least dense sponge; the density of the sponge increases gradually as one approaches the layers closest to the wheel rim. As a consequence, when there is little downforce, the tire has considerable "give", but as downforce increases and the tires gets flattened, the "give" of the tire decreases to match the increased downforce. At no time does the tire "flatten out" completely because of excessive downforce. (A beneficial side effect of this system is that the tires are puncture-proof, and as a result, a spare tire is not necessary.) These sponge rings are designed to be easy to install, and compatible with any tire on the market.

Active Suspension

La Macchina is designed to have a fully active suspension, similar to the active suspension developed by the Bose company. Each wheel is raised or lowered by electro-magnetically-operated activators, so as to ensure maximum contact with the pavement at all times, while ensuring a smooth ride. The car's drive-by-wire supercomputer automatically adjusts the ride height and the force with which each tire presses down on the pavement, depending on the amount of downforce generated by the suction fan.

Laser rangefinders accurate to one millimetre (1/25th of an inch) or thereabouts located near each wheel continually scan the road ahead of the car and generate a 3D virtual "map" of the pavement. The car's drive-by-wire supercomputer uses these "maps" to adjust the active suspension for each wheel well in time for the active suspension to adjust each wheel's position relative to the car's chassis so as to ensure maximum grip coupled with a smooth ride.

Additionally, the active suspension is designed to adjust the car's ride height to suit its driving conditions: lowering the car when it is on smooth pavement and travelling at a high speed or when maximum downforce is required, and raising the car if the pavement is rough, or when the car is travelling off road. This can be done automatically by the car's drive-by-wire system, and be completely transparent to the driver.

Regenerative Braking and Air Brakes

Braking is accomplished with conventional disk brakes—with carbon-carbon or carbon-ceramic rotors—whose stopping power is augmented by regenerative braking. This is accomplished by the engine installed in La Macchina. If no fuel is injected into its combustion chambers, the MYT Engine or Quasiturbine installed in La Macchina functions as an air pump, pumping ambient air into one or more compressed air tanks made from carbon-fibre, similar to those used in the MDI compressed-air-powered car. These tanks are capable of withstanding air pressures of well over 300 bars (about 300 atmospheres, or 4,400 lb/sq.in.). When braking is finished and it is desired to accelerate the car once again, the compressed air is fed back, as required, into the engine to augment engine power, the way air from a turbocharger or a supercharger is used. The availability of this compressed air ensures that there is never any turbo lag: while the turbo is spooling up, the air from the compressed air tanks is used to augment the engine's power. Another added advantage of carrying compressed air in such tanks is that releasing it cools the air down considerably, making it available for use for the car's air conditioning system.

Since the engine, when used as a pump for braking purposes, compresses air into a tank already full of compressed air, much if not most of the braking can be accomplished by the engine. The conventional brakes are available, but used to a lesser extent than would be the case if engine braking were not used.

Also, other systems of regenerative braking, such as flywheels and supercapacitors, will also be tried when each version of La Macchina is prototyped, and if successful, will be incorporated into the manufactured version.

In addition, La Macchina is designed with large air-brakes which are deployed at high speeds to slow the car down without necessarily engaging the wheel brakes or using engine braking, or using them only minimally.

Four Wheel Steering

La Macchina is designed to have four-wheel steering. Most versions are designed with ample amounts of rear wheel steering, for ease of parallel parking and low speed manouevring. Parallel parking can be automated, if so desired by the driver. In addition, tiny amounts of rear wheel steering provides tight control of understeer / oversteer, which can be dialled-in by the driver. It also improves straight-line stability, which at high speeds is important.

Drive-by-Wire System

La Macchina is designed with a combination of direct drive and drive-by-wire. Most of the time when the car is being driven, driver inputs are directly and mechanically transmitted to the car, and vice versa, so that feedback from road conditions is not compromised. However, whenever necessary, the car's drive-by-wire supercomputer steps in to provide superior levels of safety and performance. Even when the drive-by-wire supercomputer intervenes, the supercomputer feeds back all forces acting on the car to the driver in a manner which doesn't deprive the driver of any road feedback.

The drive-by-wire system is fully programmable via a touch screen mounted on the dashboard. The driver can change the drive-by-wire settings to customise the response of the car to his or her liking, such as setting the degree of understeer or oversteer at different speeds and different rates of acceleration or deceleration. The driver can also program the vehicle to exhibit "active steering"—like that provided in the latest BMW cars—if he or she wishes to. If this is programmed into the computer, there is never any need for the driver to turn the steering wheel more than a certain maximum—normally, about 90 degrees in either direction—to turn the car as much as is needed. At low speeds, small angular displacements of the steering wheel cause a much larger-than-usual turn in the car's wheels, while at high speeds the situation is reversed, and as a result the car is safer at high speeds. The effect is, of course, designed to be completely transparent.

Safety Features

Emergency Brakes for La Macchina

With up to 10g of grip available on dry asphalt pavement at all speeds, and disregarding the added effect of the air brakes, the equations of motion predict that La Macchina should be able to come to a full stop from 100 km/h (62 mph) within approximately 4 m (about 13 ft) in only 0.33 seconds, from 161 km/h (100 mph) within approximately 10 m (about 33 ft) in less than half a second, from 350 km/h (217 mph) within approximately 50 m (about 160 ft) in less than one second, and from its top speed of 500 km/h (311 mph) within approximately three seconds, in less than 440 metres (about 1,440 ft—just a tad over a quarter-mile). In comparison, it takes about 10 seconds for the Bugatti Veyron to brake from its top speed of 252 mph (406 km/h) to a standstill, with a maximum grip of 1.3g and an average grip of 1.14g, and as a result it covers 1,268 metres, or about 4,160 ft—more than three-quarters of a mile—doing so.

Thus La Macchina's braking ability already provides it with a level of safety well beyond that available to every other automobile made today. No doubt deceleration at 10g will be unpleasant to most occupants, but it will not be fatal, or even cause serious injury. On wet pavement or on dirt roads the grip will be lower, of course, but it will still be far greater than that available to other cars. However, on wet roads and at the high speeds which every version of La Macchina is intended to reach, the air brakes would help make up some of the braking power lost due to the wet conditions.

In addition to these two types of brakes, La Macchina is equipped with one or more spring-operated or hydraulically-operated skid pads and retractable metal claws under the vehicle. The skid pads, which in normal use are pulled up off the ground to lie flush with the underside of the car, are designed to deploy and make firm contact with the pavement when the brake pedal is pushed down beyond a certain point in its travel, and with a certain degree of extra pressure, as might happen during a panic stop. The pads are made of very sticky, soft rubber, of the kind used in the grippiest racing car tires, so that with any given amount of downforce, the resistance of the pads against the pavement is far greater than with the tires used for day-to-day driving. This reduces the stopping-distance and -time at any given speed. On dirt roads, the claws, which are normally retracted into the rubber pads, can be caused to extend themselves beyond the pads. This is accomplished when all three of the following conditions are met simultaneously: (1) the brake pedal is depressed to its maximum extent of travel, (2) the car is moving at a speed higher than a certain minimum (say, 50 km/h, which is about 30 mph), and (3) the handbrake is raised from its resting position. The extent to which the claws extend beyond the rubber pad is dependent on the extent to which the hand brake is raised. Under such conditions, the extended claws dig into the dirt, stopping the car far more rapidly than the tires by themselves could. (This would be especially important on dry dirt roads, since the available downforce on such roads would of necessity be compromised considerably: the suction fan(s), if operated at their maximum setting under such conditions, would suck up too much dirt to be able to function at anywhere near their maximum efficiency.)

Most importantly, however, La Macchina is also designed to actively avoid collisions. Sensors (which include but are not restricted to cameras and rangefinders) sensitive to many different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation—ultra-violet, visible light, infra-red and microwaves—located all around the car generate a virtual 3D "map" of the environment around the car in the car's drive-by-wire supercomputer, which automatically steps in when necessary to avoid collisions by either slowing down the car or—if that's better—by steering it out of the way of any obstructions. Before the computer steps in, an alarm would be sounded, alerting the driver to the need for taking appropriate action.

It is to be appreciated that the car's supercomputer does not have to calculate the entire 3D map in real time. The fixed objects in the map as well as the rise and fall of the road in general can be pre-programmed into the computer's memory via GPS. The computer only needs to calculate the 3D map for those objects which are not in the GPS-generated 3D map. These sensors, being sensitive to many different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, operate even under bad conditions, such as fog and in the dark, and prevent collisions even when the driver is not able to prevent them himself. So if someone happens to have the steering wheel of La Macchina in their hands, it could never happen that as they are driving along the highway they suddenly have an epileptic fit, and as a result drive their car into a lamp-post at the speed limit. The drive-by-wire supercomputer would prevent any such thing happening, no matter how much of an epileptic the driver might be.

As a result of all the above, La Macchina is predicted to be one of the safest cars on the road, and will very rarely if ever get into an accident. Complete amateurs should be able to drive it quite safely.

Instrumentation

In addition to the standard instrumentation such as tachometer, speedometer, fuel gauge and engine temperature gauge, La Macchina has a "Bragometer" or "Boast Gauge", like the one in the Bugatti Veyron, allowing its owners to brag about their total dominance over every other car on the planet. However, in contrast to the Veyron's "Bragometer", which displays only the amount of horsepower being used at any given moment, La Macchina's "Bragometer" also displays such information as the amount of grip, the time and distance to stop from the current speed, and, thanks to the car's sensors and supercomputer, the time that would be required to overtake the car in front of it when travelling along a two-lane highway.

The fuel gauge of La Macchina is designed to be equipped with an indicator showing the current rate of fuel consumption, as well as the amount of fuel used since the last time the trip odometer was set to zero, enabling the driver to minimise fuel consumption if so desired.

In addition, there is a touch screen in the centre of the dashboard which allows the driver to control virtually every aspect of the car, including such things as suspension settings, amount of understeer or oversteer desired, and so on. The touch screen is also connected to the Internet 24/7, and doubles as a satellite navigation system. In addition, the touch screen is intended to function as a display for a diagnostic computer which will diagnose any problems that may arise with the car. (Nevertheless, as explained in the next section, it is expected that such problems will be few and far between.) More advanced versions of the firmware for La Macchina's supercomputer can also be downloaded as and when these versions become available.

In normal use the screen displays the complete view to the rear and sides, generated via one or more suitably-situated cameras; there will be no blind spots in the display. (Rear-view mirrors will, as a result, not be necessary for La Macchina, though they can, of course, be provided if the owner so desires.) The screen can also show a virtual "map" of the car's immediate environment from a "God's Eye" point of view (i.e., as if it were being observed from above), and on which is indicated, with the help of a grid, how far all the objects around the car are. This would allow the driver the ability to "see" all around the car and drive the car more easily in cramped conditions.

Ergonomics, a.k.a "Human Factors Engineering"

Great attention will be paid to ergonomics and the human-machine interface, also—and better—known as "Human Factors Engineering". It will be possible for the driver, while driving, to adjust almost every aspect of the car without getting out of his seat, and in most cases without taking his hands off the steering wheel. All instrumentation will be clearly visible to the driver under all conditions; and those instruments which should be visible to the passengers also—such as the clock—will be situated so as to be visible by all passengers. In fact, there is no reason why there should not be more than one clock in the vehicle. (The "Bragometer" in particular should be visible to the passengers: there is little point in the driver bragging only to himself.) All things that need to be touched or gripped will be covered with non-slip surfaces. No sharp edges or corners will be allowed anywhere inside or outside the car, or in the mechanical areas or trunk, so that no one can hurt themselves on such things. The keyhole for the car's key will definitely not be located near the driver's knee—as is the case in most cars today—so that in case of a panic stop or a crash there will be no risk of the driver being knee-capped by the key. It will be impossible to lock the key inside the car; it will only be possible for the car's doors to be locked with the help of the key from the outside. (Of course the car can also be locked from the inside, even without the help of the key, but only when all the doors and windows are firmly shut.) If the car is driven without properly closing any of the doors, they will automatically close themselves: the driver will not need to stop the car or get out of it to close the doors manually. It will be possible for the rear window to be opened, at least partially, so that on fine days, a pleasant flow of air from the side windows exiting the rear window can be obtained. The seats—especially in the Luxury version—will be adjustable not only in three dimensions, but also to some extent in size and depth, so that all people, large and small, can sit comfortably in them for hours on end. The pedals and steering wheel will be adjustable fore-and-aft, up-and-down and sideways. The front windshield and windows will be made of the kind of glass used in Transition Lenses™, so that glare will be minimised. Headlights and tail-lights will come on automatically in the dark, and the high beams will come on automatically when there is no car ahead of La Macchina. Wipers will come on automatically when it starts to rain, and will stop automatically when the weather dries up.

It will never be possible for the car to run out of fuel by mistake (i.e., unless one deliberately tries to do it); an auxiliary fuel tank, connected to the engine via a valve or pet-cock in the engine compartment, will provide enough fuel to easily reach the next fuel station. This pet-cock or valve will have to be opened after stopping the car, getting out and opening the bonnet, to ensure that the auxililliary fuel tank is not depleted of fuel before the main fuel tank is totally empty. When refuelling the car, the auxilliary fuel tank will automatically get filled first.

The battery will never go flat: if its power-level falls below a certain minimum, the computer will automatically restart the engine to recharge the battery; once the battery is fully recharged, the computer will shut the engine off. If the car is completely out of fuel and the battery has reached its minimum level of charge—as might happen if the car is parked for a very long period, say several months—the car's computer will shut off all the electrical components which may be drawing power from the battery, and lastly, shut itself off after saving all its settings, thereby maintaining a certain amount of residual charge in the battery. As a result, even if the car is started after a long period, the engine will start using the residual charge left in the battery. The car having been re-started, the battery will again be recharged to the full in a relatively short time, and will also allow the computer to resume functioning with its last-used settings.

The passenger compartment will be water-tight, so that if the car slides off the road and falls into a lake, it will float indefinitely until help can arrive to rescue its passengers. (A few rations and an oxygen bottle will always be found stowed away under the seats, for just such an emergency.) A first-aid kit and a multi-use tool will be standard equipment found in the glove compartment. In the Minivan and SUV versions, a location for pets to travel in comfort will be provided. It will be possible for the Minivan version to be easily and inexpensively converted for total wheelchair accessibility.

The above list of features is merely a greatly-abridged version of a much longer check list which will be made available to all coach-builders of La Macchina. By following such a check list—which will doubtless grow longer with time—La Macchina will become the most ergonomic and "human-friendly" car ever made.

Reliability and Cost of Ownership

Every version of La Macchina will be offered for sale with most of its parts carrying an unlimited life-time warranty, like Craftsman-brand hand tools. If any part of it breaks down in normal—or even somewhat abnormal—use, that part will be replaced (not repaired, but replaced) under warranty at absolutely no charge to the owner, regardless of the age of the car. (Parts which are expected to undergo normal wear and tear, such as the tires, brake pads and wiper blades, will be exempted from the lifetime warranty, of course, but will instead be offered with a warranty based on the amount of time they are normally expected to last before needing to be replaced, as is done even today with such parts. Paintwork also will be excluded from the lifetime warranty. It will instead be given a warranty lasting a certain number of years.) The cost to the customer over time, and to the manufacturer of La Macchina in money spent on fulfilling warranties, will be kept to a minimum, however, since all parts of La Macchina will be designed from the start to be as rugged as possible—the super-abundance of power available making it unnecessary to take extreme steps to minimise weight, except in the case of the racing version. Nowhere in any version of La Macchina will any material which can corrode, rust away, or otherwise disintegrate simply due to the passage of time, ever be used. (The only exceptions will be some of the materials used for the interior, including cloth and/or leather, since cloth, leather and such-like materials do not last forever even if they are not used or touched, but nevertheless have no equally-desirable substitutes; these materials will therefore not be covered under the lifetime warranty, and will need to be replaced at the owner's expense every couple of decades or so, or as needed.)

If any part which is under the unlimited lifetime warranty breaks down, or even deteriorates visibly, the broken part will be very carefully examined, and the cause of the breakdown or deterioration determined; and as a result of this determination, the part will be redesigned and remanufactured to prevent any such breakdown or deterioration ever happening again. Furthermore, owners whose cars still contain the older, breakable part will be offered the opportunity to have it upgraded at no cost. With time, therefore, no part of La Macchina will ever break down, or even visibly deteriorate, in normal use; and as a result, La Macchina will become, in due course, the most reliable car ever designed or made. Each Macchina should, in fact, last a lifetime or more in excellent condition, and it will be possible for it to be handed down from parents to children, much the way gold watches and other family heirlooms are.

It is to be appreciated from the above that the cost of ownership of La Macchina, even if fairly high at the time of initial purchase, will, when spread out over a lifetime or more of ownership, be considerably lower than the cost of ownership of most other cars, which over a mere ten or fifteen years of use turn into just so much junk.

This also has environmental benefits. It is to be appreciated that about half the energy used up by an automobile over its lifetime is the energy used in manufacturing it; and more will be needed for recycling it, if recycling is done after it is no longer in use. La Macchina, which spreads out the energy costs of its manufacture over several decades, or even a century or more, rather than just a few years, and which never needs to be recycled, or needs to be recycled only when human technology has improved so much that recycling can be done without much of a social cost, clearly has enormous environmental bennefits over present-day cars.

Theft-Prevention Features

Every individual Macchina will have a computer chip embedded in each of its parts, as is done in the more modern credit cards; and the car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) will be encoded into each chip. In addition, each chip will have GPS trackability, which the owner can activate remotely via cell-phone or—in the near future—via satellite. At start-up, the car's drive-by-wire supercomputer will check every chip in every part of the car to see whether the VIN encoded into each chip matches the car's VIN; and if any part in the car doesn't have a chip, or if there is a part whose chip doesn't have the correct VIN encoded into it, the computer will prevent the car from starting. As a result, it will become pointless for a thief to steal a Macchina for its parts. To prevent thieves from manufacturing their own chips and installing them into stolen parts, each chip will be encoded by the manufacturer with a secret Chip Identification Number (CIN) which is not the same as the car's VIN, and which the car's computer will also be required to recognise in order to allow the car to be started.

If the entire car is stolen as a whole, the customer can, with the help of a password known only to himself or herself, activate the GPS tracking devices embedded into the chips, so as to easily and rapidly locate the car, and contact the police with its location. (The police will not know the owner's GPS password—unless of course the owner wishes to communicate it to them—in order to safeguard the owner's privacy.) As a result, a strong deterrent against being stolen or car-jacked will be built-in, since the thieves cannot realistically hope to get away with it.

If any individual Macchina requires a new part or parts, the dealer selling the part(s) will encode the chip in the part being sold with the VIN of the car into which it is intended to be fitted, using a PIN (Personal Identification Number) which the dealer will be required to memorise; and at the first re-starting of the car with the new part in it, the owner will be required to activate this new part's chip using his or her own separate PIN, which he or she should memorise. Once this is done, the part will have the car's VIN permanently and irreversibly encoded into its chip. As a result, it will be next-to-impossible for a thief to install new parts into a stolen car: he would need to know both the dealer's PIN and that of the owner, and it is highly unlikely he would know both these PINs.

It goes without saying, of course, that it will be impossible for the car's doors to be opened without the correct key: the locks on the doors will be so designed that it is impossible to "jimmy" the door open. Nor will it be possible to "hot-wire" the car to make the engine start without the help of the key: the wires for starting the car will be thoroughly enclosed in strong metal tubes so as to prevent any such thing being done.

Networking Between Cars in the Immediate Vicinity

Every individual Macchina will network with others in its immediate vicinity, via WiFi and/or Bluetooth technology. This will be done by a separate computer chip. Knowledge of the location, speed, direction of motion, rate of acceleration, etc. of other cars in the immediate vicinity will enable each of the cars' drivers and drive-by-wire supercomputers to avoid collisions even better than they could otherwise. As a result, it is highly unlikely that any Macchina will crash into another, or into any other car equipped with this chip.

Such a chip, along with its software, will also be offered for installation in cars manufactured by other companies. (It is the designers' opinion, in fact, that for safety's sake, such chips should be made mandatory in all cars, as seat-belts are today. It would be easy and relatively inexpensive to retrofit every car on the road with such a device. Even without drive-by-wire, it could at least alert the driver to the possibility of an impending car-to-car collision well in advance of its occurrence, allowing him or her a little bit more time to take the necessary steps to avoid it.)

Customisability and Upgradability Features

One of the most important features of La Macchina is the fact that every part in every version, from the engine to the drivetrain to the car's body, will be designed and built such that it can be assembled and disassembled simply by snapping and unsnapping the required parts together. All that will be needed will be a pair of hands: no screws, bolts or nuts will be used in the car's assembly. (If any screws, nuts or bolts are used in the manufacture of any of the parts, they will be such that they never need to be unscrewed for the car's assembly, and will also be so well installed that they cannot possibly come loose due to the operation of the car, even under the roughest of conditions.) A simple set of instructions, with appropriate pictures, will be supplied with every car and indeed with every part, showing how the car is to be snapped together and which part goes where.

The inspiration for this feature arose from the designers' observation that almost all guns, from pistols to high-calibre sniper rifles, can be assembled and disassembled very quickly using just the operator's bare hands. This is accomplished through the use of intelligently-designed joints, enabling the simple and rapid snapping of parts together, as is done for example with bayonet mounts. In some guns, in fact, such methods are so effective that weapons like the German/Swiss Luger Parabellum pistol and the Russian AK-47 assault rifle rarely malfunction, even when enduring a life-time of regular firing—which, be it noted, is a very violent procedure. (It is to be appreciated that in when a gun is in use, g-forces as high as 190,000g can repeatedly be generated: far greater than any part of any car is ever expected to withstand in normal use, or even in a crash.) Despite this fact, Lugers in particular are known to have a lifetime well in excess of 100 years. And an AK-47 has been videoed by the Discovery Channel as being capable of operating perfectly even after being dunked in water, buried in dirt and, finally, run over by a Humvee. It is also possible to dismantle an AK-47 in just over six seconds, using its snap-in / snap-out system of assembly.

For La Macchina, the designers intend to use a similar system, the end result being that the car will be far cheaper to manufacture—since the costs of assembly will be negligible—and will also be much easier and quicker to customise and upgrade. A master key—perhaps the car's own key—will be required to unlock the car to make it possible to disassemble in the manner described above, so that no one not authorised to dismantle it will be able to do so. The key may be inserted into special keyholes provided in strategic places, and when turned, will release a lever or a button which enables the disassembly process to be started.

Also, since the wheels of La Macchina—like all its other parts—are designed to be simply snapped in and out (perhaps using a "quick-release" like those used in many bicycles), it will be easy to change the wheels to suit varying driving conditons. In order to allow the user to change the wheels, every Macchina (except the racing version) is designed with two integrated hydraulic or electric jacks, each operated using power drawn from the car's engine: one jack situated under the front end of the car and the other near the rear end. These jacks can be used to raise the front or rear end of the car—or both together—in order to change the wheels quickly and easily.

Talbot-Lago "Goutte d'Eau"

Every version of La Macchina is also designed to be almost endlessly customisable. The body and interior of each version can be anything the customer wants, as long as it fits the chassis and drivetrain. A customer can choose to have his or her personal Macchina look like any car ever made (as long, of course, as the owners of the design patents are paid the royalties they would doubtless charge). For example, some customers might want to have their Macchina look like a 1937 Talbot-Lago T-150C SS Goutte d'Eau, while others might want to have their Macchina di Lusso look like a Phantom Corsair—these two cars being two of the best-looking and most distinctive ever designed, and having the added advantage of having been produced so long ago that their designs are now in the public domain. Some customers might even want their Macchina SUV to look like the seriously cool Batmobile which debuted in the movie Batman Begins ("Eat your heart out, Schwarzenegger!") Of course any customer is welcome to have the coachwork of his or her personal Macchina designed and built from scratch by a private coach-builder of his or her choice, as was customary in the past for wealthy owners of Duesenbergs, Isotta-Fraschinis, Hispano-Suizas, and other marques comprising the most highly advanced and expensive automobiles of the 1920s and '30s.

In addition to such customisability, standard designs will also be offered for each version of La Macchina. Competitions will be held, and designers from around the world—both professional and amateur—invited to send in their designs via the Internet. Perhaps prominent judges from around the world might be invited to tell us which are, in their view, the best entries, with help from the public who will vote via the Internet, similar to the manner in which the winners of TV shows like "America's Got Talent" are determined. (These competitions, in addition to generating—hopefully—some stunning designs, will also afford La Macchina a great deal of pre-production publicity.) The creators of the winning designs will be awarded a royalty in the form of a percentage of the sales of the cars they have designed.

However, it should be noted that the primary allure of La Macchina are its performance and fuctionality. Its looks, although by no means unimportant, are nevertheless secondary.

It will be appreciated, also, that since the car's parts can easily be snapped in and out, each individual car can be upgraded or changed to suit the owner's tastes and desires. As and when more advanced technology becomes available, it can easily—and relatively inexpensively—be incorporated into the car. And the owner can also alter its appearance if so desired—say, if he or she gets bored with the way his original car looks—without having to buy a whole new car.

Pricing

The price of every version of La Macchina will be little more than the price of the sum of its parts. As has already been mentioned, all the parts are designed to simply and quickly snap together, which enormously reduces the cost of assembly. There will, as a result, be no need for a factory to assemble La Macchina. Parts will be delivered to the dealers, who will simply snap them together to result in the configuration desired by any given customer. The cost of snapping them together will, as a result, not exceed a couple of hundred dollars or thereabouts. Those customers who wish to save even this paltry sum may order the parts to be delivered to their homes, where they can snap them together themselves.

Since the majority of the parts will be relatively small, they can be manufactured anywhere in the world, and shipped to their destinations. Bids for manufacturing each part will be accepted from many manufacturers from around the world, and as a result of the competition thus generated, the cost of the parts—and thus of La Macchina itself—will be comparatively low. Many people will, in all probability, be able to afford one. Exclusivity is not desirable for La Macchina, since one of the objects of designing it is to bring automotive technology into the 21st Century (whereas at present it is mired, sadly, in the use of technologies from the first half of the 20th, especially with respect to engines, suspensions, and grip, and demonstrating a total lack of drive-by-wire, supercomputer-assisted collision avoidance, and regenerative braking—not to mention abysmal levels of reliability, safety and performance).

However, it should be noted that the philosophy behind the design of La Macchina is based on the "cost is no object" principle. Cost will not be reduced if doing so compromises performance or any other desired aspect of the car. The most advanced materials and techniques—titanium, carbon-fibre, modern ceramics, supercomputers, handcrafted leather interiors, premium sound systems, etc., etc.—will be used in its manufacture. As to the exact materials which will be used in the manufacture of La Macchina, the designers have adopted the principle that those materials which best suit the purpose of each part, and that of the car as a whole, should be used, regardless of cost. Even so—and as was already mentioned earlier—the annual cost of ownership of La Macchina is expected to be quite low due to its lifetime warranty, its extreme longevity, and, consequently, its negligible rate of depreciation. Its resale value will also, as a result, be quite high.

Projected Performance Figures for La Macchina (Standard Two-Seater Version)

All versions of La Macchina have been designed with the intention of reaching levels of performance several times higher than the best-performing cars of today. To highlight this, the designers have used the equations of motion below to calculate approximate performance figures for the standard two-seater (or two-plus-two-seater) version of La Macchina. Given the combination of the above-mentioned technologies, such figures are not at all unreasonable.

  • Zero to 60 mph (97 km/h): 0.33 second (assuming an average of 10g of acceleration—it is to be noted that 0-60 mph is accomplished by La Macchina in a distance of only 4 m or about 13 ft, which is less than its own length)
  • Zero to 100 mph (161 km/h): 0.5 second (assuming an average of about 9g of acceleration)
  • Zero to 150 mph (241 km/h): ~1.0 second (assuming an average of about 7g of acceleration)
  • Zero to 200 mph (322 km/h): ~3 seconds (assuming an average of about 3g of acceleration—it is to be appreciated that at speeds higher than about 150 mph, wind resistance increases dramatically with increasing speed)
  • Zero to 250 mph (402 km/h): ~11 seconds (assuming an average of 1g of acceleration)
  • 250 mph (402 km/h) to zero: ~1.2 seconds (assuming an average of 10g of deceleration)

For reference, the Bugatti Veyron's comparable performance figures—measured on real pavement—are as follows:

  • Zero to 60 mph (97 km/h): 2.5 seconds (representing a measured average of 1.1g of acceleration)
  • Zero to 100 mph (161 km/h): 5.5 seconds (representing a measured average of 0.84g of acceleration)
  • Zero to 150 mph (241 km/h): 11.3 seconds (representing a measured average of 0.61g of acceleration)
  • Zero to 200 mph (322 km/h): 22.2 seconds (representing a measured average of 0.41g of acceleration)
  • Zero to 250 mph (402 km/h): 55 seconds (representing a measured average of 0.21g of acceleration)
  • 250 mph (402 km/h) to zero: ~10 seconds (representing a measured average of 1.14g of deceleration)

It will be seen from the above that the performance figures calculated for La Macchina are between five and ten times better than those of the fastest, most powerful and most expensive sports car sold today (mid-2009).

La Macchina Lampo

For hard-core car enthusiasts, La Macchina Lampo, a single-seater street legal version, not much bigger than a go-cart, will be offered. La Macchina Lampo is designed to have an optional gimballed cockpit and a reclining seat for enabling the driver to withstand greater lateral g-forces than would be possible to withstand in other street-legal versions of La Macchina. In addition, La Macchina Lampo is designed to be stripped of all unnecessary equipment such as a trunk, carpeting, air conditioning, a sound system, etc., so as to minimise weight. A target weight (without driver) of 500 kg (1,102 lb) should quite easily be met. Perhaps even half that target weight (without driver)—i.e., not greatly exceeding the weight of a present-day superbike—could realistically be met, due to the fact that La Macchina Lampo would be little more than a seat coupled to an engine and wheels, and would not need a transmission or a 5,000 horsepower (3,728 kilowatt) engine providing over 6,000 lb-ft (8,136 newton-metres) of torque: an engine of just a quarter of that amount of horsepower and torque—and thus weighing only about 18 kg (40 lb)—would be more than ample to propel a car weighing, with driver, a mere 350 kg (772 lb), and capable of 10g of grip, from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) in a third of a second, or even less. Such a model would have a power-to-weight ratio of 1,620 bhp per tonne. (In comparison, the Bugatti Veyron is claimed to have a power-to-weight ratio of 529 bhp/tonne, without occupants; La Macchina Lampo's power-to-weight ratio, even when it has a very small MYT Engine or Quasiturbine and is fully loaded, would thus be over three times as great.)

Using La Macchina Lampo for Setting a Nürburgring Lap Record with Rocket-Assisted Cornering

A special, highly-streamlined edition of La Macchina Lampo is designed to attempt the setting of a 3-minute Nürburgring Nordschleife record. To accomplish this lap time, an average speed of about 460 km/hr—i.e., 286 mph—will be necessary (the Nürburgring Nordschleife being about 23 km—or 14 miles—in length). This is a little more than twice the average speed for the present Nordschleife lap record, set by a Porsche 956 in 1983 with a lap time of 6 minutes 11.13 seconds, and is also faster than the maximum speed of the Bugatti Veyron, the fastest production car as of date (mid-2009). To achieve such a high average speed, the cornering speeds will have to be very high. As a result, the lateral g-forces withstood by the car and driver will probably have to be raised somewhat above the 10g available due to the operation of the car's suction fan. (It is to be noted that for any given radius of turn, centrifugal g-forces are proportional to the square of the cornering speed: twice the cornering speed generates four times the centrifugal g-force.) Due to the Lampo's reclining seat and gimballed cockpit, the pilot may be able to withstand 12g or more, at least for short times. (A seat reclined to about 80 degrees allows an aeroplane pilot to easily sustain 15g, as reported by Dr. Dougal Watson, sourcing the Aerospace Medicine web site, aeromedical.org—and it is to be noted that this is sustained g-force.)

To this end, rocket-assisted cornering is designed to be fitted to this special Macchina Lampo. Liquid-fuel rockets with controllable thrust fitted to the sides of the car are designed to be activated automatically by the car's drive-by-wire supercomputer, when needed, to enable cornering at even greater speeds than would be possible with a mere 10g lateral grip. (Rockets are used because only they can produce prodigious amounts of thrust for very little additional weight.) The driver will need to wear a g-suit to enable him—or perhaps her—to withstand the high g-forces of cornering. Since cornering times would be relatively brief, while on the straighter sections of the course the g-forces on the driver will be negligible, it is expected that a sufficiently fit and well-trained driver will be able to drive the lap without blacking out. Even if he or she does momentarily black out at some of the more extreme corner(s)—such as the famed Karoussell—the car's drive-by-wire supercomputer, which have a GPS-generated map of the Nordschleife embedded in its memory, will be programmed to enable the car to negotiate such corners successfully.

Not only will the speed on the corners need to be very high, but the speed on the straighter sections will also have to be very high—a maximum speed considerably higher than the 500 km/h projected for the standard version of La Macchina. To this end, it will have a body with extreme streamlining, similar to or even better than that used in the 432.7 km/h (268 mph) Mercedes Benz W125 Rekordwagen, which achieved this astounding maximum speed as long ago as 1938, driven by Rudolf Caracciola on a straight stretch of the Frankfurt-Darmstadt Autobahn. It is to be appreciated that with any given shape of car, air resistance increases, roughly, with the cube of the speed, and thus beyond 200 mph or thereabouts, a great deal of additional engine power is needed for every mile-per-hour increase in speed. Consequently, streamlining will yield better dividends, as far as increasing top speed goes, than additional horsepower. All the same, the most powerful engine that can reasonably be fitted into the car will be installed.

(Parenthetically, it was discussed by the designers whether rocket-assisted acceleration and/or braking would be incorporated into this edition of the car, but these proposals were rejected as being too much like "cheating". La Macchina is intended to always be a wheel-driven car.)

The combination of rocket-assisted cornering with extreme streamlining, with perhaps a more powerful MYT Engine or Quasiturbine and—definitely—a very, very fit and well-trained driver, will, hopefully, enable this special edition of La Macchina Lampo to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in three minutes or less. Even if this is not achieved at the first attempt, concerted attempts will be made to eventually reach this goal, which the designers feel can be achieved with a real live driver in the car, though just barely.

(Of course if there is no one in the car—and thus no g-forces to be withstood by a living person—the goal of a 3-minute Nürburgring Nordschleife lap can easily be achieved, using remotely-controlled driving plus even more powerful rocket-assisted cornering; however, the designers feel this would also be too much like "cheating".)

In addition, it is also felt by the designers that such an edition of La Macchina will be able to lap the Top Gear 1.75 mile (2.82 km) long track in less than 30 seconds, which is faster than the fastest lap of this track, recorded by a Sea Harrier jet, which took 31.2 seconds, subjecting the pilot to a g-force of about 6g. Since La Macchina can take 10g or more, it is felt that the Sea Harrier's record can be broken by it.

La Macchina Lampo for "Track Days" with Sideforce-Generating Aero Devices

It is expected that most races run today, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will ban La Macchina, since the car incorporates many technologies which are already banned in such races, like the suction fan, or are likely to be banned in the future, given modern trends regarding the types of engines and other technologies which are permitted in racing. It has been proposed, however, that despite this, a modified (reduced-power) edition of one of the street-legal versions of La Macchina might be permitted to compete in at least in one of the production-based grand tourer (GT) classes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, competing with Corvettes, Porsche 911s and the like. It has been calculated that if La Macchina approaches, even approximately, the performance figures illustrated above, it would easily be able to complete more laps in just 16 hours at Le Mans than any other car would be able to complete in 24. (It would be quite hilarious, if fact, for the drivers of La Macchina to stop after just 16 hours, and relax in the pits with beers in their hands, daring the other teams—especially the ones entered in the top category, LMP1—to catch up, with 8 hours to spare, to the distance they had already covered!)

However, there is no reason why La Macchina could not, on other occasions, run on well-known race tracks at times when races are not actually being run on them, the way "track day" cars in Britain and elsewhere do today, to try and show off their abilities, and those of their drivers—or, indeed, just for fun. For such "track days", a special edition of La Macchina Lampo is designed with moveable aero devices and air brakes, enabling the cornering speeds and corner-entry speeds to be raised beyond those available with the car's normally-available 10g grip. (It is to be noted that rocket-assisted cornering will not be possible in a race, due to the fact that the rockets' exhaust would adversely affect the other cars participating in the race.) The aero devices would not be restricted to producing downforce, but would also—indeed, mainly—produce side-force, since quite ample downforce would be produced by the suction fan(s).

La Macchina di Corsa and Formula i

La Macchina di Corsa, the pure racing (non-street-legal) version of La Macchina, is designed to race on its own special track. The combination of these car(s) and track(s) is called "Formula i" Racing, or "Fi" for short. (The "i" stands for concepts such as "ideal", "infinite", "impossible" and "incredible", and also as denoting the square root of negative-one, to underline the almost eerie unreality of it all, as described below). The track and tires are designed with intermeshing bumps, the way Lego™ blocks are designed, using a technique described at greater length in the chapter entitled "Don't Lego" starting on page 24 of the book The Seventh Generation by the futurist who writes under the pseudonym "Laser Quasar Absolutely". The bumps in the tires fit into the spaces between the bumps on the track, and vice versa, thereby eliminating any chance of skidding. Both the tires and the track are made of rubber, so that in those cases where there are no gaps in the track for the bumps on the tires to fit into, or no gaps in the tires for the bumps on the track to fit into, they simply compress each other.

The above technique enables the cars and drivers to sustain as much g-force as the strength of the materials, and the drivers' capacity to withstand the g-forces, allow. Formula i Racing is therefore no longer dependent on the drivers' ability to maximise grip, but rather on the quickness of their reflexes and their ability to withstand the rigours of the track. To assist in this, the seat of La Macchina di Corsa will be reclined and the cockpit will be gimballed, as in La Macchina Lampo, to enable the drivers to sustain higher g-forces than would be the case if the seat were not reclined and the cockpit not gimballed. La Macchina di Corsa may, if so desired, be equipped with joystick controls, also to enable higher g-forces to be sustained by the drivers. Additionally, the curves of the track will be calculated so that a trained driver, wearing a g-suit, and sitting in a reclining seat in a gimballed cockpit, should be able to withstand the g-forces generated when negotiating them, even at the very high speeds La Macchina di Corsa will race.

Since the downforce generated by the Fi cars' suction fan(s) will always be much greater than the weight of the car, the Fi track need not be anywhere near flat and level, as is the case with all other race courses. There will be barrel rolls, loops, upside-down sections, and even tubular sections, in which the overtaking car may have to go around the car in front of it by going up to the ceiling of the tube. The cars' drive-by-wire supercomputers will automatically prevent any of the cars falling off the track or crashing into one another. As a consequence, Fi tracks can be located on the sides of mountains, allowing the spectators sitting on the plains below a view of virtually the entire track. The tubular sections can be tunnelled into the mountain. (Views of what's happening inside the tunnels can of course be televised to the spectators, and indeed to the whole world.) The most spectacular—and fastest—part of at least one Fi track will be a quarter-mile straight-down vertical section. On this section, gravity will assist the cars to considerably exceed their level-track maximum speed.

The best of today's racing drivers would probably get disoriented on such a track. Driving down the vertical quarter-mile section at racing speeds, and perhaps even overtaking another car along the way, would probably be terrifying for most of today's F1 drivers. However, it is felt that there are people in the world who would like to race on such a track. Perhaps young people who have grown up playing video games and riding today's extreme roller coasters, or others who are aerobatics enthusiasts, would find such a track not too hard to negotiate. It goes without saying, of course, that every Fi car—like pretty much all other racing carts—will be a single-seater, and built to be as light as possible. And, of course, every Fi car will have an engine producing sufficient horsepower and torque to have a decent chance, with a good driver, of winning the race. The combination of "Won't-Lego" tires and track, which will prevent any slippage between the two, will enable all the power and torque of the engine to be used.

No advanced technology will ever be banned from Fi, provided the technology doesn't impact negatively on other cars, drivers, or spectators (such as rocket-assisted cornering, which would bake other cars and people to a crisp in a matter of milliseconds). And non-Fi cars, such as those used in Formula One or Le Mans, will also be welcome to compete against Le Macchine di Corsa in Fi races, if they can.

It is envisaged that Fi races will not last much longer than an hour, if even that long: the strain of the physical as well as psychological demands of such a race would probably exhaust the drivers within about an hour, or maybe even less.

La Macchina di Lusso

La Macchina di Lusso, the luxury version of La Macchina, is designed to have the smoothest and quietest possible ride that technology can produce. The car may be either chauffeur-driven or owner-driven, as desired. A smooth ride is achieved by means of the active suspension, while sound- and vibration-insulation is achieved by—among other ways—magnetically isolating the passenger cabin from the rest of the car, perhaps with sponge and/or other kinds of soft, sound-deadening material intervening between the cabin and the rest of the car, so that there is little or no physical contact between the passenger compartment and the car's machinery. A small but well-stocked fridge, espresso-maker and microwave oven are provided for the passengers, to enable them to take refreshments whenever they feel like it. Magnetically-stabilised and gimballed cup-holders and food trays enable drinks and food to be isolated from the g-forces acting on the car when accelerating, decelerating and going around corners, so that under everyday driving conditions not even a ripple should appear in the matching china coffee cups. A small auxiliary MYT Engine or Quasiturbine provides continual climate control at all times during an outing, so that the passengers never have to get into a car that's too hot or too cold, even if some of them get out of the car for up to an hour or two at any given location during the outing. At the beginning of an outing, a remotely-operated button on the car's key can activate the auxiliary climate-control engine about five minutes or so before the passengers get into the car, so that by the time they are in the car the interior is already at the desired temperature. The heaters as well as the air-conditioning units installed in the car are furthermore designed to begin to operate instantly, without relying on the need for the car's engine to warm up. Heated and cooled seats and steering wheel are, of course, provided, as in many luxury cars today, as is a top-of-the-line sound system, automatic wipers and headlights, etc., etc. On frosty mornings, a blast of hot dry air can be caused to pass over the windshield and windows to clear off any misting rapidly. If freezing rain causes ice to form over the windshield and windows, it can be melted off using the same hot dry air for a somewhat longer period. One or more vacuum-cleaner hoses are provided in the boot of the car or under the seats, to enable the chauffeur—in the case when the car is chauffeur-driven—to clean up any dirt tracked in by the passengers. (Suction for the vacuum cleaner is provided by the car's auxiliary engine, which is also used to power its suction fan.)

Additionally, the passengers, especially the rear seat passengers, will have access to the Internet 24/7, and a cellular phone will be provided for each rear seat. (Cell phones will not be provided for the front seats, and especially not for the driver, since studies have shown that it is dangerous for the driver to be using a cell phone while driving, even a hands-free cell phone.) The Internet display for the rear seats may be part of the food tray serving each seat, functioning as a touch-screen device. It can also play DVD movies for rear-seat occupants, to while away the tedious hours of a long journey.

It might also be noted that many of the features described above can be incorporated into the standard version of La Macchina, as well as La Macchina Grande and La Macchina SUV.

Lastly, of course, La Macchina di Lusso is will come with an engine providing huge amounts of horsepower and gobs of torque, as well as all the other features described in the "common features" section above, and as such should be capable of levels of performance almost as high as the standard two-seater version.

La Macchina Grande and La Macchina SUV

The People Carrier / Minivan and SUV versions of La Macchina, a.k.a. La Macchina Grande and La Macchina SUV respectively, are designed to carry up to seven passengers and a good deal of luggage in a fair degree of comfort, and in the case of La Macchina SUV, provide rugged off-road capability as well. In addition to these common features, however, the designers of La Macchina intend to pack greater amounts of high performance capability into them than most other car manufactures feel is necessary for vehicles of their type (SUVs, and especially Minivans, being commonly relegated to the bottom-end of the performance ladder by most manufacturers). Simply by assembling the already very powerful standard Macchina components onto a frame capable of supporting the necessary cabin, it is easily predicted by the designers that these vehicles would have performance figures far in advance of any other vehicle of their type, and even far in advance of some sports cars—losing out on matching the performance figures of the two-seater Macchina and other powerful sports cars mostly due to the greater air resistance their taller and wider cabins would create.

"Reinvented Wheel"

ReinventedWheel.jpg

For extreme off-road use, a special "wheel" is intended for use on La Macchina SUV, one which, when combined with the active suspension provided with all versions of La Macchina, will enable this version to travel over the roughest terrain without the occupants feeling any bumps. (The idea for this "reinvented wheel" is drawn from the 1992 book Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.) In this "wheel", each individual spoke—there may be as many as twelve spokes, or even more—telescopes in and out in a computer-controled sequence calculated to allow the car to go over any bumps and dips in the terrain smoothly. The telescoping will be done either magnetically, pneumatically or hydraulically, or through a combination of these methods. The amount of telescoping is controlled by the car's supercomputer with input from the same system of sensor-generated "maps" that governs the active suspension on other versions of La Macchina. Each spoke, then, is fed information about the terrain in front of it by the car's supercomputer, and adjusts its length before it actually reaches the spot in question. When it does, gimballed pads attached to the ends of each spoke make contact with the terrain, providing grip. There is no actual rim, and thus the "wheel" is not round or even nearly so, like a conventional wheel. In appearance it is just a number of spokes protruding from a hub. This kind of "wheel" is "fluid" enough to "flow" over deformations in the terrain. As a result, the car's ride is silky smooth, even when it is travelling over the roughest terrain.

It should be appreciated, of course, that these "bespoke wheels"—if they may be so called, tongue-in-cheek—can be fitted to any version of La Macchina. They just need to be snapped into place. However, it is envisioned that some versions of La Macchina, such as La Macchina Lampo or even the standard version, would not be suitable for genuine off-road use, though they would probably be great fun on dirt roads. However, even on dirt roads, conventional wheels will be sufficient: the "bespoke wheel" will not be necessary.

Attractions

According to the designers of La Macchina, an SUV and a People Carrier / Minivan version is very attractive to the average customer. One attraction is that if a common-looking SUV or Minivan body were chosen by a customer for one of these vehicles, its high-performance capability would be disguised by its looks, rendering it what might be called a "stealth sports car". Another attraction is the fact that in the modern world many people miss out on the fun of owning a high performance sports car because their families cannot do without a vehicle capable of meeting the demands of everyday life, and they often cannot afford two cars, especially if the second is as expensive as a standard sports car today. Thus, La Macchina Grande and La Macchina SUV will provide such people with a relatively inexpensive and extremely reliable family vehicle, which can also do double-duty as a high-performance sports car.

Retrofitting the Technology of La Macchina into Existing Cars

It will also be possible to retrofit at least some of the technology of La Macchina into existing cars. This will be encouraged rather than discouraged, since the object of creating La Macchina is to bring automotive technology into the 21st Century. For instance, a Bugatti Veyron retrofitted with a 5,000 horsepower MYT Engine or Quasiturbine, a suction fan powered by an auxiliary 500 hp MYT Engine of Quasitiurbine, and computer-assisted active suspension, would be considerably better in performance than a standard Veyron. Even a Mazda MX-5 or a Mini Cooper retrofitted with the technology of La Macchina could well be better in performance than a standard Bugatti Veyron. Of course such a retrofitted car would not contain all the technology incorporated into La Macchina—for instance, it would not have a lifetime warranty, nor would it be a snap to customise or upgrade—and would be therefore be inferior to a real Macchina. Nevertheless, since it would be better than any existing car other than La Macchina, many owners of such vehicles might opt to retrofit what they already own rather than buy an entirely new car.

Commericals

To highlight the performance and capabilities of different versions of La Macchina, as well as to advertise the brand name, some TV commercials have already been planned, and two of them are described here.

The first commercial starts with the words "What you are about to see is real; it is actual footage, not computer-generated imagery" being displayed on a black screen. Then an image slowly emerges: a standard two-seater Macchina is shown on the deck of an American aircraft carrier, alongside an F-18 Super Hornet being launched using the carrier's steam catapult. A "Won't-Lego" type of track is laid out for La Macchina alongside the steam catapult. La Macchina and the Super Hornet are shown suddenly and simultaneously starting off in a race; La Macchina is shown reaching the end of the carrier's deck and coming to a stop before the Super Hornet manages to take off, all of which happens in less than two seconds. A slow motion replay of the event is displayed after the initial normal-speed display, clearly showing that La Macchina reaches the end of the carrier's deck and stops before the Super Hornet takes off. Not a word is spoken during the commercial: not even music is played. The only sounds are the sounds of a carrier jet taking off with the help of a steam catapult, plus the much weaker car sounds of La Macchina. At the end of the commercial, the screen fades to black, with the words "La Macchina" in gold lettering slowly emerging from the darkness, and after a while, its motto, in a smaller typeface, appears under its name: credo quia absurdum ("I believe because it is absurd").

(It is to be appreciated that a Super Hornet is catapulted off a carrier with less than 5g of acceleration. La Macchina using a "Won't-Lego" track, being capable of sustaining more than twice that much accelerative and declarative g-force, should therefore be able to accomplish the above, as predicted by the equations of motion.)

The second commercial also starts with the words "What you are about to see is real; it is actual footage, not computer-generated imagery" being displayed on a black screen. Then a shot of a china cup on a saucer, with coffee in the cup, emerges. The coffee has no ripples in it whatsoever. The camera slowly zooms out, and gradually reveals the fact that the cup and saucer are located in a Macchina SUV equipped with "reinvented wheels" and magnetically-stabilised and gimballed cup-holders. The car is travelling at a high rate of speed over some of the very roughest off-road terrain—say, in the Mojave or Arizona desert—and throwing up clouds of dust behind it. Slowly the camera zooms in back to the cup, which again shows not a ripple in the coffee. The driver, who is dressed in an immaculate suit and tie, takes a sip from the cup, and puts it back down on the saucer. The screen then fades to black, and as in the previous commercial, the words "La Macchina" in gold lettering slowly emerge from the darkness, and after a while, the motto credo quia absurdum. During this commercial too, not a word is spoken, nor is music played. The only sounds are the engine sounds of La Macchina SUV, and natural desert sounds.

Feedback from the Public

As good as La Macchina is, it can be made even better—perhaps much better—with input from the pubic. As a result, the designers invite members of the public to send in their recommendations and comments. For the moment, the e-mail address {ardeshirandcyrusmehta (at) gmail.com} may be used for this purpose. Although it is not guaranteed that every e-mail message will be answered, it is guranteed that every one will be read and given due consideration.

Some Final Words

It bears repeating that the vast majority of the technology for La Macchina is available today, and has even been tested in prototypes. Indeed, much of the technology has been available for quite some years now, and some of it—for instance, the suction fan for increasing grip at all speeds, drive-by-wire, and snap-together assembly—has been available for quite a few decades. Even computer-aided collision-avoidance has been prototyped, though perhaps not with results good enough for La Macchina. However, the computing speed of computers and supercomputers is increasing at a breakneck speed, and by the time La Macchina goes into production, their abilities should be well within the range required for this purpose. The only major technologies that have not yet been tested in at least prototype form are the rocket-assisted cornering for the 3-minute Nürburgring record-setting lap, the "Won't-Lego" tire-and-track combination for Formula i racing, and the "reinvented wheel" for extreme off-road conditions; however, there is no good reason to doubt that these would work well in practice, especially after their kinks have been ironed out. Besides, two of these technologies are not used in the street-legal and non-extreme off-road versions of La Macchina anyway; and the third is needed only for extreme off-road use, and is not necessary on pavement, or even on dirt roads.

The only thing that needs to be done is to iron out the wrinkles in the technologies that will go into La Macchina, and this should be possible in a few years at the very outside, since much of the overall pre-design work is already finished, and is outlined in this article and elsewhere. As a consequence, drawing up exact designs for La Macchina, then prototyping it, and subsequently putting it into production, requires merely the will to do it—plus, of course, one or more investors ready to invest his/her/their money for this purpose (which the designers predict would easily be recouped many times over once production goes into high gear). Unfortunately, it is seen as unlikely that any established automobile manufacturer will want to undertake prototyping and production of La Macchina, mostly because if any of them had any inclination to undertake such a bold project, they would have done so already. At the very least they would not be holding back the automotive world by needlessly clinging to technology which was invented 70 years ago or more. However, there is next-to-nothing in the design of La Macchina that is terribly new, difficult to understand or hard to implement. For these reasons it is envisaged that some intrepid person(s) from outside the automotive industry will be willing to become the prime mover(s) in its production, as has happened with the Tesla Roadster or the MDI compressed-air-powered car. Of course whoever does it will have to have a great deal of financial backing. However, the number of people who have a great deal of spare money but not much of a clear idea what to do with it is increasing in some parts of the world, especially in Russia, the Middle East, India and the Far East, and it is quite conceivable that some such person(s) will become enthused with the idea of putting into production the most awesome automobile ever, and to that end will invest the requisite funds.

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