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RCA Intelligent Mobility students’ rideable bench wins Ford Fund Smart Mobility Challenge

Two RCA MA Intelligent Mobility (IM) students have won the Ford Fund Smart Mobility Challenge with their design for a rideable bench. Corentin Janel and Guillaume Innocenti have been awarded £12,500 to take the first steps in transforming their design into a reality. 

Organised by Ford Fund, the company’s corporate foundation and philanthropic arm, and the Royal College of Art, The Ford Fund Smart Mobility Challenge asked students to come up with ideas that offer a sustainable urban mobility solution and benefit the community.  Janel and Innocenti’s design is a response to the fact that the way that we navigate our cities is changing. People are increasingly walking, cycling and riding scooters to reach their final destination. There is also a growing need for street furniture where residents and visitors can relax and rest. Their solution is a rideable bench called TOD, short for ‘talk or drive’.  

‘A rideable bench is a great example of how design can help form the fabric of cities, as it’s something that’s fun, practical and multi-functional,’ said Amko Leenarts, director of design, Ford of Europe. ‘It’s a clever way to make mobility part of the city, encourage people to interact and enable people to experience cities in a totally new way.’

TOD is designed as an adaptable system with a static mode and mobile mode. In static mode, it is a bench that can be extended to accommodate three people. Accessories such as chairs and corners can easily be added using a plug-in style kit system, while a flat square can be connected to two benches to form a picnic table.  

An image of TOD, a design concept for a rideable bench by Corentin Janel and Guillaume Innocenti
TOD by Corentin Janel and Guillaume Innocenti

In mobile mode, the sit-on scooter can carry up to two people, with a maximum speed of 20 km/h. A hatch in the middle provides space for luggage, while stretching bands on the back and sides enable users to transport both small and long items. Users can locate and book a bench or sit-on scooter using a dedicated app.

‘We wanted to create a community service that adapts to the urban life of its users,’ commented Janel and Innocenti. ‘Winning the challenge gives us a lot of confidence in our proposal, and it allows us to build a prototype so that our idea can become a reality. Working on a full-scale prototype will enable us to fully understand the package and at the same time think about the materials, the process and the user experience.’

Ford Fund also awarded £5,000 to Cardiac Patrol, a proposal to equip private vehicles with automated external defibrillator devices for emergency use, which was designed by IM students Cheng Qian and Mingwei Liu. And to Communi-T, an interactive vehicle that could help homeless people and those in need, designed by IM students Domenico Perna and Pavan Kumar Sirigineedi.