Imagine a cycle that gives you the speed and style of a bike and a bike that lends the fitness benefit of riding a bicycle. Sounds farfetched?
Try this -- a helicopter that can fly in air, glide on water, ski on snow and trundle on land.
No, we are not talking about the pushpak viman from the puranas or any other fantasy comic.
It’s real new-age technology that’s going to be the future, asserts Narayan Subramaniam, the CEO of Ultraviolette Automotive, a Bangalore-based start up.
Started by three brilliant techies, Narayan Subramiam, Preetham Murthy and Niraj Rajmohan, Ultraviolette has been designing out-of-the-box, technically advanced, solution-driven vehicles/automobiles to suit various consumer/market needs. Backed with a design degree from National Institute of Design and thereafter rich experiences of working with automobile biggies all over the world, such as VolksWagen, Toyota, BMW, Mahindra, Volvo and Ferrari, Narayan has won many accolades for his designs.
As Transportation and automobile designer and an Industrial designer and entrepreneur, Narayan aims to bring in sustainable solutions for basic problems faced in personal mobility.
“As an engineer, you spend a lot of time on figuring out how to make things work. As a designer, you need to come up with creative and relevant ideas. And for designing technology, you need to be adept at both. Even as a kid, I was fascinated by technology,” says the young CEO who quit a lucrative IT job in two months to pursue his dream of making it big in the automobile industry.
But after working for Mahindra for over six months, he felt the need to push boundaries a little further. “I realised that in Indian automobile market, we only do facelifts for already existing designs and there’s hardly any innovation happening at the core.” That landed him in Sweden on a scholarship and got him the exposure to the international design community.
His entry for a country-level design competition won the best design award and got selected for the Detroit Auto Show.
“It’s a scaled-down prototype of an amphibian vehicle, looking at a futuristic market where technology will be easily available to the masses,” says Narayan. “There’s no dearth for imagination. You work on a dozen concepts, some of them may be outrageous but finally one would have room for practical adaptations and the relevance to the present time.”
The prototype rides on land in one mode and glides on water on the other mode. It’s designed with a pair of metal wheels that open up into skis, based on the principle of a metallic strip that takes a different shape when electrically activated.
After that, Narayan went on to design a helicopter for Ferrari, a sports vehicle for the physically challenged for Adidas and a production car for Toyota. The helicopter features seats that take the shape of the person sitting on it, thus giving the optimum seating experience and position. “It also has holographic projections to help with the topography as the vehicle is meant for rescue operations where the visibility is not always good,” he adds.
On designing a sports car for the physically challenged, Narayan says, “Wheel chairs have been there for over two decades but very little innovation has been carried out, though physical capability suits are now being worked on.” The sports car has a central chassis with two wheels at the front and one wheel at the rear, giving it a stable base. “We took some inspiration from the Adidas shoes and designed the car such a way that it can stand upright while parked. The person can drive in on the wheel chair and dock in.”
“Design lifecycle is a long frustrating process from sketches and prototypes to the real product. We do a lot of 3D printing in our company as we have to quickly assess the merits and demerits of a design and decide whether we can go ahead with it. Every stage is a test on its own; we keep adding or deleting features,” says Preetam Murthy, the COO of Ultraviolette.
Niraj Rajmoham, the CTO of the company, says, “Interdisciplinary knowledge is very essential for engineers. We used to take part in robotics competition, so even though I have been doing coding since the age of 10, my exposure has been varied with motors and circuit boards. The combination of the disciplines can bring in a lot of technological advancement.” He adds, “A lot of kick-starter projects are mostly mechanical devices with some amount of smartness. It could be a Bluetooth-connected bicycle light for instance, but it isn’t a leap from what we have already. I would say it should have happened five years ago.”
Currently Ultraviolette is working on a ‘smart personal mobility’ product named ‘Glide’ that aims to ease the first and last mile commute (House-train-office). The product is a highly compact, light-weight, high technology-user experience focussed vehicle. Another product named ‘Twister’ is a new-age urban commute bike that offers the flexibility between motorised biking and manual cycling. “When you want to save time, ride it as a motorised bike. When you want to burn some calories, flip the frame and ride it as a bicycle,” says Narayan. “This vehicle won the Excellent Design Award at the International Bike Show, Taipei.” Ultraviolette is also working on a performance-based high-tech electric two-wheeler for the Indian Market.
“All our vehicles are going to have high end IOT interface - Your smartphone could be used to access your vehicle and also connect to the company on a real time basis. We would be able to monitor your usage patterns and performance of the vehicles and send you remote updates to optimize daily commute,” says Narayan. “In effect, Ultraviolette vehicles keep evolving with time and fit seamlessly into your urban lifestlye. We are also working on a series of IOT devices and accessories that would augment your entire user experience”
The trio was at Thiagarajar College of Engineering in the city, to address students of Mechanical, Civil and Electrical Engineering and architecture.