Bran Ferren, 61, may just be the smartest man on the planet. He’s an artist and an inventor. He’s a businessman and a scientist. He’s a technologist and a designer. Possibly even more impressive, though, is the fact that Ferren has not only dabbled with each of these endeavors, he’s mastered them.
Good friend and former Microsoft CTO, Nathan Myhrvold, says, “He’s so knowledgable about so many things that, at some point after meeting him, most people think, is this guy a bullshitter? But he really is that smart.”
So, back in 2009, it was to no one’s surprise when they found out that Ferren— who is also the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Applied Minds— was setting out to build the world’s ultimate off-road vehicle.
But why suddenly get involved with automotives?
Well, it was during that same year that Ferren was blessed with his first child, daughter Kira. Her birth instantly inspired him to build his little girl an expedition vehicle, so they could travel and experience all of the great wonders of the world together.
Wired writer Brian Raftery says, “He started to envision a vehicle that could take Kira nearly anywhere on earth without limitation— a mix of high-powered machinery, bomb-shelter self-sufficiency, and luxe-life accoutrements. It would be a mobile, malleable five-star fortress.”
Over the past five years, Ferren has dedicated a great deal of his time to making this great off-road vehicle come to life. But it hasn’t always been easy.
Ferren says of the project, “You’d think it’d be harder to design a jet than an off-road car. You’d be wrong. It actually gives you an appreciation for why there are so many shitty cars and why there are so few great anythings. Because, it turns out to do a great thing is hard.”
Despite these difficulties, it seems that Ferren is finally satisfied with his ultimate off-road vehicle, and he is planning on putting it to use later this year.
The six wheeled super-ship, which has been named the KiraShip, is built off of a modified Mercedes-Benz Unimog truck chassis and uses a six-cylinder turbodiesel engines that generates 260-horsepower and 700lb-ft of torque.
Impressively, the ride is also capable of holding 170 gallons of diesel or biodiesel fuel and can travel up to 2,000 miles without refueling. As far as performance goes, the vehicle can navigate on slopes as steep as 45 degrees and can churn over anything in sight.
The most impressive part of the vehicle, though, may be all of the extra features that are found inside and out.
Inside of the cockpit, Herren has built a series of custom-made, overhead and dash mounted touchscreen displays that allow the driver to monitor and alter thousands of features inside of the vehicle. Some of these features include an extensive server-based media library, precise 3D location and navigation tools, and of course a reconnaissance drone.
Herren says, “It’s basically as if we’re in an airplane, just stuck to the ground.” Or as we like to call it: a techy’s wet dream.
The fun doesn’t stop there, however. In the accompanying 52 foot trailer, there are state-of-the-art sleeping compartments, a full kitchen, two computer workstations, a bathroom, a playroom, and a turbo diesel Kirabike for short supply missions.
Ferren says of the bike, “I think of it as a dinghy. If I want to run into town, I don’t want to take 51,700 pounds of expedition vehicle to get milk and eggs.”
All of these features have helped Ferren— the genius— blend the power and strength that is needed for off-road capabilities with the gentleness need for a family trip.