Look ma, no steering wheel

Following on the heels of the Aero X concept, the 1982 General Motors’ Aero 2000 was an incredibly sleek machine.

Unfortunately, it couldn’t move under its own power. Actually, it had no power because it had no engine. Instead, the Aero 2000 was a full-sized model created for Disney’s EPCOT Center (now known as Epcot) and to explore various aerodynamic concepts and new interior technologies for production feasibility.

In hindsight, maybe it was best the Aero 2000 concept couldn’t be driven.

Why would I write that? Because it had no steering wheel. More incredibly, there were no gas or brake pedals. Instead, the Aero 2000 proposed a theoretically different way of piloting the car.

Not easily seen in the photo are markings on the a centrally-mounted, aircraft-like control lever that read “Turn” between arrows pointing left and right, “Fuel” next to a forward-pointing arrow, and “Brake” next to a rear-pointing arrow. The idea being that thrust, slowing and steering would respond in accordance with the single control lever. Augmenting the abnormal setup was radar-assisted braking.

Another marking on the control lever, just below a large button on the top, reads “Voice Actuation.” Once pressed, the climate controls and even power windows could be operated by voice command.

Amongst many fantasy items, the interior included realistic and production-bound features, such as an air craft-inspired heads-up display system that projected vehicle speed, average MPG, fuel volume, temperature, oil pressure, volts, and RPMs neatly onto the windshield.

Seemingly more prophetic was the large (even by current standards) dash-mounted screen that displayed maps with driving directions that could be “called up” like “switching a channel on a television set.” Also using video technology was the mirror-replacing, 180-degree rear-view backup camera.

Even entering the two-door Aero 2000 wasn’t carried out in a conventional manner. Rather than swinging out, or even up, the doors slid back. Access to rear seats was reported to be on par with conventional two-door designs.

The seat belts reportedly employed an experimental design that were incorporated into the seats and secured via a slot rather than the traditional buckle.

The Aero 2000’s electronic air suspension was driver-adjustable allowing for city or higher-speed highway driving. Additionally adjustable was the lower-body rear spoiler which could be extended to improve aerodynamics. Also helping aerodynamics were the wheel skirts. The front skirts, covering half of the tire, moved staying flush with the wheels.

The Aero 2000 employed flush windows, pop-up headlights, and no moldings or trim that could interfere with wind flow.

Durnig testing at GM’s aerodynamic’s lab, the full-sized model achieved a 0.230 Cd (Cd is a measurement used to determine a shape’s ability to slip through the wind).

Although the Aero 2000 wasn’t mechanically capable of running, it was designed and built around the use of a 3-cylinder, turbodiesel engine.

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