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Concept Vehicle Would Whisk Commuters Down LA River 'Subway'

LOS ANGELES ( — Forget the freeways: automotive designers want to get you to work via the Los Angeles River.

BMW Group DesignworksUSA designers have proposed a futuristic and stylish way to commute with their vehicle concept, LA Subways, a Mini-Cooper pod-like watercraft that would propel commuters along the local river system.

The concept is one of the entries at this year's Biomimicry & Mobility 2025 – Nature's Answer to Human Challenges competition at the Los Angeles Auto Show, which asks automotive design studios to conceptualize a vehicle experience that mimics biological functions to increase efficiency and improve mobility.

Designers John Buckingham, Anders Thogersen, Jose Casas, Daniel Hahn, and Marc Girard are working to "solve LA's daily traffic congestion and decrease the environmental impact" of traffic and "explore forgotten waterways as a commuting alternative," according to the LA Auto Show.

Inspired by deep sea creatures and jellyfish, the concept vehicle would traverse the river, which stretches from Simi Valley to Pasadena and as far south as San Pedro and Long Beach. The pod would use bacteria and an electrochemical reaction between saltwater and freshwater to produce hydrogen fuel as a propulsion system, according to the group's designs.

Tiny robots would also mimic real-life fish functions by feeding off any algae on the pod's surfaces to keep the Mini clean. However, the fish analogy doesn't end there: the Mini would utilize autonomous technology that mimics a school of fish, allowing for traffic flow in all three dimensions and improving hydro-efficiency.

One of the major challenges facing such a system would be maintaining sufficient water levels along the river to allow the little submarines to travel freely, which may prove to be a daunting task with reduced water imports to the Southland.

Designers of the pod have suggested permanently flooding the channels of the LA River to replenish the city's groundwater while also preventing excess storm water from flowing directly into the ocean, according to tech design site Gizmodo.

A winner for the competition will be selected on Nov. 21. The show will be open to the public from Nov. 22 through Dec. 1.

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