I Robot car
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Story and photos by Russell Purcell

Last September I found myself driving through downtown Vancouver when I noticed a very stylish car sitting on the side of the road. Wide-eyed and camera in hand I hurried from my hastily-found parking spot to get a few snapshots of what I quickly realized was a movie car, luckily for me, uncovered and unguarded.

The car was one of about a dozen I spotted parked within the area. It turned out the streets were being set up to shoot a scene for the now recently-released movie, “I, Robot”, starring Will Smith. The plot is derived from an Isaac Asimov story of the same name, and takes place in Chicago in the year 2035. Asimov believed that human-like robots would be part of every household by this time, performing mundane duties and chores that would free us humans to use our time for more important or pleasurable activities. Well, I’m not one to reveal the plot, but let’s just say the robots found household chores as bothersome as we do, and they decide enough is enough.

Will Smith emerging from the Audi RSQ
Will Smith emerging from the Audi RSQ

I Robot car

I Robot car
Click image to enlarge

Detective Spooner, played by Will Smith, has to solve a murder mystery that could threaten the harmony that exists between humans and their automated helpers.


Audi RSQ is the car-star

Audi’s RSQ design study was chosen as Will Smith’s vehicle of choice due to its futuristic lines – and with the help of Audi’s designers, high-tech gadgetry. It represents the first time the company has designed a car for use in a movie project, although standard models of the company’s cars are often provided for film and television use.

The Audi RSQ is a two-seat, mid-engine sports car of the future inspired by director Alex Proyas (of “The Crow” fame), who was so impressed by the design of the Audi Nuvolari concept car that he asked Audi to develop Detective Spooner’s car for the film, as well as a few others.

Aside from the bold good looks of the car itself, the RSQ (as well as all the other cars in the film) do not run on traditional wheels and tires. Instead, engine power is transmitted to four bulbous spheres. This set-up offers the car exceptional manoeuvrability as they extend further outside the confines of the bodywork and are free to rotate much further than the wheels we use today.

I Robot car
Click image to enlarge

While my street finds were a little less eye-popping than the final product on screen (no doubt due to the lack of CGI magic) the Audi website offers some insight into some of the elements of Will Smith’s stylish ride.

“Detective Spooner gets into his police car using special doors: the rear-hinged gull-wing doors open and close like a butterfly’s wings and pivot slightly around their longitudinal axis. The interior is similar to the cockpit of a jet aircraft. The large panoramic windscreen offers the best possible field of view. Bucket seats fit like moulds around the driver and passenger. The steering wheel automatically folds into position from the instrument panel thus making it easier for the driver to get in and out. Spooner controls important vehicle functions by means of the Multi Media Interface (MMI).” – www.audi.com

The Streets of Chicago, 2035

I Robot car

I Robot car

I Robot car

I Robot car

I Robot car

I Robot car

I Robot car
Click image to enlarge

My camera captured two different versions of Audi’s TT Coupe that day on the set, both with chopped rooflines and various bodywork modifications. The green one sat mere millimetres above the ground, and stood out as being a true German hotrod. The black one looked ominous, especially when viewed from the back, and may have been the pre-CGI clone of Will’s car, as the stunt driver was made to look like Mr. Smith.

Audi A4’s appear to be the vehicle of choice for the Chicago PD in 2035, and who could argue with that choice? The Quattro all-wheel-drive system works so well on wheels, it must be amazing on spheres!

Other vehicles on set included everything from taxicabs and limousines, mostly as background vehicles and a mysterious tarp-shrouded van. While all featured unique add-ons and interesting design tweaks, it was the Audi vehicles on set that stole the show.

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