Solar Sensations: A 'Car' That Will Change the Way You Think About Getting Around

Photo: 7 Solar Sensations: From Your Pocket to the Sky: Phones, Planes, Cars and More Harness Energy from the Sun

Imagine a world without steering wheels. Well it's not here yet, but the ATNMBL is on its way.

This futuristic electric car sports rooftop solar panels that support the four motors underneath. But the ATNMBL isn't just "green;" it's intelligent. ATNMBL, which is still in development, will rely on GPS and sophisticated sensor systems to navigate infrastructure that is already in place.

The only problem is speed: normal drivers will dread getting stuck behind one of these. Because ATNMBL is being developed for simple travel, it won't travel very fast. As the vehicle's Web site says, "It's time to look at performance in a new way."

Aside from the advanced driving capabilities, the project will also sport a flat panel console, using mobile communication technology. The display will not only help navigate through traffic, but will also let passengers surf the Internet from the road.

The car's designers, Maaike Evers and Mike Simonian, have been involved in a number of futuristic design projects, including Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the T-Mobile G1 -- the first phone to sport Google's Android operating system.

Evers and Simonian have introduced their ahead-of-the-curve design as a future alternative to transportation, though there's no word yet on a release date.

"The ATNMBL project is meant to provoke a broader conversation about the future of cars and to promote a shift from styling cars to redefining the entire experience. Emerging technologies will create a new measure of performance: one of time-saving, quality of life, smart exploration, efficiency and accessibility for all," Simonian said in an email.

But the ATNMBL isn't the only imagination-stretching device out there trying to harness the power of the sun.

Now that President Barack Obama and other world leaders are committing to developing green technology, experts say we're getting closer to a solar-powered future.

Jeremy Kaplan, editor of GoodCleanTech.com, said that in the past eight to 12 months, there has been a boom in green technology, including solar.

"It's all a response to the Obama administration's investments in green technology," he said.

After decades of not receiving much investment, solar technology isn't where it could be, but with new federal support, he thinks that will change.

"We can do some really innovative stuff given the the extra funding," he said. "We'll see solar cells invade our lives over the next couple of years."

In the meantime, here are a few stand-outs offering a sneak preview.

Solar-Powered Aircraft Takes Flight

Solar Impulse's solar-powered aircraft may only have room for two, but make no mistake about it -- this plane is a big deal. The aircraft, dubbed the HB-SIA, brings aviation innovators one step closer to a solar-powered commercial airplane.

The plane's specs include a wingspan of about 200 feet, a weight of about 3,527 pounds and a maximum altitude of about 27,887 feet. At the project's helm are Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the men behind Solar Impulse.

Piccard and Borschberg are scheduled to unveil the plane's prototype Friday and, if the plane's test flights go well, they said they plan to build a second plane in 2011, with the eventual aim of completing a flight around the globe.

'Blue Earth' Phone Charges Via Solar Panel

In the spirit of 21st century technology, Samsung's solar-powered Blue Earth cell phone matches innovation with an environmental conscience.

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