Images generated via artificial intelligence “Text to Image” programs are making a lot of noise in machine learning circles, and are starting to hit the mainstream. The latest buzz-generating program is DiffusionBee, which can utilize the capabilities of M1-equipped Macs to generate photorealistic images of pretty much whatever you can dream up, right on your own computer.
So I downloaded DiffusionBee to my Mac Studio and fed it some crazy ideas for cars to see what it would come up with, and posted some of the better results here (the caption for each photo shows the text I entered into the AI). While what it came up with was not perfect, it was still quite impressive, even compared to what these programs were capable of even a few months ago. Note that all of these images are exactly as they were produced by the AI: I didn’t retouch any of them in any way.
The first fun trick is to go back in time – to see what past versions of cars would look like before they actually existed. I already put an example of this in the lede, with a “1940 Chevrolet Corvette” that actually looks fairly period correct with the pontoon fenders, split front windshield, dog dish hubcaps, and power dome hood.
Here is what DiffusionBee generated when I asked it to produce a 1960 Mazda Miata (a lot of the images generated by the AI are not centered correctly, for some reason).
When asked to produce a 1980 Mazda Miata, the result was also surprisingly period correct.
Here is what I got when I asked for a “1970 Bugatti Veyron.” While at first glance it doesn’t look that different, upon closer examination you will notice the chrome door handles, mirrors, and fuel filler, as well as the “high-profile” wheels and tires, and maybe even traces of a wing window. I’ve noticed that many of these AI-generated images have a gauzy, dream-like quality to them, with their blurry edges and lettering that you can’t make out no matter how closely you look at it.
I think the popup headlights work pretty well in the 1980 Tesla. They are both period correct, as well as being the best way to achieve an maximally aerodynamic front end those sealed-beam days.
My last lookback is for Paul: A 1960 Scion xB.
But really, I had more fun asking the AI to prognosticate future vehicles of defunct brands.
Lets start with a 1960 Packard Patrician. More weird AI cropping here, but still, I can detect a hint of GM’s cantilever floating roof.
Here is what I received when I requested a “1971 Studebaker.” I think the result looks entirely plausible.
Also plausible looking is this 1970 Edsel, which has the split grille, split bumper guards, and remnants of a two-tone paint job.
This clearly Lincoln-based 1975 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser seems to live up to the spirit of the original.
This 1975 Studebaker has more than a hint of Mercedes SL, which kind of makes sense, as Studebaker once owned the distribution rights for Mercedes-Benz in the US. A still extant Studebaker in 1975 could possibly have been partnered up with Mercedes.
I’ve noticed the farther I ask the AI to peer into the future, the more bizarre the results become. I would hope that in the alternate reality where Packard didn’t go out of business that they still weren’t using 1950s cathedral styling cues into the 1970s.
This 1990 Studebaker looks like an unholy union between an Avanti II and a Pontiac 6000.
Meanwhile, this 2010 Packard looks like a cross between a Chrysler 300 and a Maybach.
My final time bender is the biggest leap: A 1970 Ford Model T. It basically is a 1970 Ford Falcon, with the really tall greenhouse from a Model T.
Curiously, asking DiffusionBee to extrapolate further into the future (e.g. a 2030 Corvette) just produced current versions of said cars. I guess there are some things that not even AI can predict.
Of course, why limit yourself when you can ask for anything you want?
This is one of my favorites. We all know there was no actual 1983 Chevrolet Corvette (outside of a few C4 prototypes), but this AI rendering nicely bridges the C3 and C4 models with styling cues from each. Chevy Rallye wheels pretty much look good no matter where you use them.
Of course, Pontiac never made an F-body pickup truck, but what if they did? The results actually don’t look half bad. I would take this over a Hyundai Santa Cruz or Ford Maverick any day of the week. Again, more of that AI dream-like effect with extraneous shut lines and inscrutable tire lettering.
Tesla Model S Convertible? No problem.
Tesla School Bus? Sure, why not.
And finally, this Pontiac Aztec pickup looks every bit as scary as you would expect.
Very creative. I like the clean lines and simplicity of the 1971 and 1975 Studebakers. Thanks for a fun read.
brilliant! ARe you taking orders? 1990 saab 96 could be interesting.
One 1990 Saab 96, coming right up.
The 1990 Studebaker has more than a hint of Saab 9000 in it
Wow…I love that! Reminds me a bit of a Tatra 603 in profile, but shorter, more modern, and Saab-like.
First, I had no idea that widely available AI programs were up to this sort of thing. Second, the results are interesting to behold.
The 1971 Studebaker looks oddly like a 1975 Plymouth Gran Fury. I guess Studebaker was still ahead of its time in 1971. 🙂
The xB looks like something Mitsuoka could actually be making.
Pontiac did study making a pickup, but based on the contemporary El Camino.
Pontiac sure did like teasing a pickup truck over the years, without ever actually making one. There’s probably a post’s worth of material on Pontiac trucks that never were.
…the last one being the G8 Sporttruck.
Me likey! A PonchoMino! 😉
I suppose making the Edsel two-tone in ’70, when nothing else was (bar vinyl roofs), indicates that it’s still out of step with the market. Packard would have tried to reintroduce their famous pre-war hood crease somehow, which would have likely looked even dorkier.
Thank you for downloading, and ‘roadtesting’ this program. Powerful tool, that will only get more accurate, as it is refined, and evolves. Most of the examples you’ve presented are great. Interesting, how it applies styling elements that define different eras, quite well. Some are very believable. I could see genuine designers tooling around with programs like this.
AI is a database that gives answers, even to questions it was never design to answer. The key is to know the limits and conditions of the database so that the answers given to your questions are legit. My fear is what I witness today with databases. People unaware of the limits and conditions of a database, create queries it cannot answer – but accept those answers because it came from a computer database. No matter how hard I program a system, I can never fully program out management stupidity.
You’re making me want a new Macbook just to run this AI software…
The A pillar and windshield on the ’60 Miata is from that year’s Studebaker Lark, right?
The Edsel looks like a FoMoCo product, probably a Mercury, but not an Edsel.
The wheelwells on the xB couldn’t be any more 1960, but the rest of the car doesn’t look that vintage to my eyes.
Greenhouse of the ’75 Packard looks like it’s from a Mopar R body.
The Tesla convertible looks great. They should build it!
If you ask it for a ’22 Chevrolet Cavalier and ’22 Cadillac Cimarron, do they still look alike?
I want to see what that ’57 Biscayne that Joni Mitchell sings about looks like…
Good Suggestions. The 2022 Chevrolet Cavalier looks a lot like a 2nd-generation Cruze with a current Chevrolet face, as you would expect.
The 2022 Cadillac Cimarron looks stunning, at least according to the AI. It has a rear end inspired by the Lyriq, and has also apparently turned into a coupe.
Wow, that’s not what I was expecting…
It looks like a concept for an X4 or QX55 competitor. Honestly I don’t mind it.
This is quite possibly one of the first times in my way-too-long computer history I read an article like this and could say “But I actually have a new MacBook Pro with the M1 chip – huzzah!!!!”
Can I manage to use my powers for good instead of evil?
Yes, yes, I wish more computer guys would use their powers for good over evil. Not trying to be funny, but serious! Waaaay too much evil in world today.
The styling of the 1970 Edsel is a very plausible continuation of where they were going on the 1960 model, with a toned-down split grille. It would have been a redundant and forgettable model, with nothing to distinguish it from Ford and Mercury other than tiny details. But that’s why Edsel was killed, anyway.
(Although part of me wonders what would have happened if Ford’s stylists had doubled down, and stubbornly clung to the “horse collar” of the 1958 and 1959 models. Probably would have ended up like a 1970 Pontiac!)
The best (IMO) is the “1940’s Corvette”, even with the weird asymmetrical grill. Some are plain ugly to a little scary.
Agreed. I *so* want the 1940 Corvette to be real – it looks so right (minus the AI quirks like the asymmetric grille). That is why I picked it to be the lede photo.
These are fantastic. They for the most part look pretty reasonable what ifs. For anyone who has dabbled a little in AI programming the results are nothing short of amazing.
Terrific. Some of these are quite good. especially the ’71 and ’75 Studebakers as well as the 1980 Tesla Model S.
Now if it could just center the cars; how much intelligence does that take? 🙂
I think it may be trying to be more human. The off-center shots without capturing the whole thing remind me of some of my early photos… 🙂
It’s probably because these sorts of AIs are algorithms fed mountains of data; shots that don’t capture an entire car are still valuable data points. Either that, or it’s intentionally cutting off segments where it has insufficient data or the result is out of some kind of bound.
I know what I’m doing this weekend!
These are my favorite types of posts here on CC – fun and interesting topics related to cars. Hopefully this can become a recurring series, if you’re able to have time for it.
As for requests, we got a new Cimarron, so how about a 1985 Lyriq? Another interesting one could be a 2022 Prowler (Plymouth or Chrysler, your choice)
I didn’t have high hopes for the 1985 Cadillac Lyriq, but I think it captured the rear end treatment quite well.
As I suspected, the 2022 Plymouth Prowler was problematic – it has styling cues that are difficult to modernize. I do think it did a reasonable job with the front end.
Looks like it morphed into a boattail!
This is fascinating! The one that gets me is the Mercedes-based Studebaker. The rest are really interesting, but the visual styling cues have a simple logical connection – pictures of cars tagged as that brand.
But the logical underpinnings of a Mercedes-based Studebaker, taking into account the business connection between the two in the US is much, much more complex than pictures tagged with the same make and model name.
One more too good not to share:
These generation blends (like the 1983 C3.5 Corvette) are among the most interesting, so I fed it a “2000 Ford Thunderbird” into the program to see what would happen. The result was a two-seater that was significantly less retro than the actual 2002 ‘bird. It looks more than a bit like an R129 Mercedes SL.
One can’t help but wonder if the actual 11th gen Thunderbird looked like this (or an equivalent Lincoln version) how differently history would have turned out.
Ooh, nice! Reminds me of the Mitsubishi 3000GT Spyder. Ford could have done this car as a straightforward reskin of the 1989 bodyshell, with necessary reinforcements for the convertible top. But I don’t think the sales would have been there…
The “1970 Edsel” looks too much like an AMC Rebel was used to start drawing. They would’ve used Ford/Mercury body shells if still had the brand. Maybe take Torino and add differing fascia?
However, I agree that the best looking picture is the “40 Corvette”.
I’m curious about the backgrounds too. Most of them look much like what you see in real promotional shots. But why did it put the Turnpike Cruiser in a showroom on a rotating stand? The house behind the xB does look like something that could be in Eugene.
Wow…this piece made my day! My favourites are the 1970s Studebakers, which look exactly like what they would have looked like: Archaic, with a weird mix of 1960s-holdover and Mercedes-esque styling.
The nose on the 1990 Stude gives me Opel Commodore and Lincoln Continental vibes.
And the “1970 Ford Model T” made me laugh out loud! Wonder if it still had the planetary gearbox after sixty-odd years.
The possibilities are endless. What would a 1975 Ford Taurus have looked like? Or a 1990 Ford Pinto? A 2000 Chevrolet Citation?
There’s one out-of-the-ordinary idea I’d be genuinely curious about: A 1986 Hyundai Veloster. That’s the model of car I own, and I can’t help but wonder what the company would have done if they had tried to pull off something like that in the ramshackle “Mitsubishi and Cortina parts” era.
This 1986 Hyundai Veloster is exactly what you would expect it to look like, even down to the drab beige color and cheap plastic wheelcovers.
Oh…my eyes! My eyes! Can’t unsee!
“… 1975 Ford Taurus have looked like?” a Torino
“Or a 1990 Ford Pinto?” an Escort
“A 2000 Chevrolet Citation?” a Malibu
To me, the 1980 Miata looks like what could have been a next-generation M-series TVR:
AI must be color blind. How else to explain a red school bus?
This was certainly a fun post. Many of the results were quite good. Only a few were eye bleach worthy.
Well I am too surprised by how accurate some of those renderings are. The 1940 ‘vette is an obvious winner but the 1960 Miata is more or less as I would have imagined it would have looked like – similar ideas guided Honda when it developed its S360/500/600/800 series. The 1960 Scion xB is not a million miles from actual Kei-class vans of the time. But to my eyes the best is the Bugatti which is very much like a real supercar of that era – the Monteverdi Hai…
A technical question…the AI program places the cars on these backgrounds? That’s really neat, as most of the AI stuff I’ve played with (nothing this sophisticated it seems) usually does an awful job of rendering backgrounds.
I think that the 1975 Packard looks like something that Clark Griswold would purchase if he won the lottery. And the orange Tesla School Bus…a) it’s orange (funny that the AI didn’t clue into the fact that the ONE thing we could agree about a school bus is that it should be yellow); and b) I can imagine kids sort of wandering around the outside of it trying to figure out how to get inside when it pulls up at the bus stop. Come to think of it, that might be exactly what Elon Musk would design if he designed a school bus 😉
Without getting too technical (difficult, given the topic), machine learning is all about the training dataset, with the bigger the better.
The Stable Diffusion engine that ships with DiffusionBee is “pretrained” using the LAION-5B image data set, which is the largest image-text dataset in the world, with 5.85 billion image-text pairs (the entire training set is 240TB).
When asked for a wacky image composition (say a “1940 Chevrolet Corvette”), it first looks for similar images that it was previously trained on, in this case maybe a “1940 Chevrolet” and a “Chevrolet Corvette,” and then tries to blend them together, using connections formed during training, much like you or I would, just millions of times faster.
The image background probably comes from one of the training images, which is why it often looks like a garage, dealership, or brochure.
Just as well I don’t have a Mac!
1940 Chevrolet Corvette by Figoni et Falaschi? Franay? Saoutchik?
Still taking requests? How about a 1999 Corvair?
I don’t know if anyone else would be interested, but I’d love to see a 2022 Crown Vic and 2022 Buick Roadmaster Wagon!
Utterly amazing, thank you so much for this ground-breaking post! It opens up a whole new parallel universe that I so far only have seen in my wildest dreams.
I have requests for a
2017 Audi 5000
2022 Audi 90
1984 BMW 724td touring
Bring it on!
A slight cheat as I don’t have the hardware, but here’s a 1970 Cadillac Seville:
The greenhouse shows it must have known they considered using the Opel Diplomat.
I’d like to see an evolutionary step between the air-cooled VW Beetle and the late 90’s New Beetle. I’m thinking it would be water cooled,but still rear engined, similar to the 80’s Vanagon was a step between the air-cooled bus and the Eurovan.
I’m not sure what the program would do in practice, however, since the technically made air-cooled Beetles long after they stopped selling them in the US.
I would love to see a semi with a great drag coefficient. Think General Motors EV1 or Volkswagen XL1 and Mack.
The AMC Pacer would be a fun one to go both backward and forward in time with. How would a ’55 Nash Pacer, ’65 Rambler Pacer, or ’95 Eagle Pacer have looked like?
I asked for a ’65 Cougar.
Another ’65 Cougarstang.
1965 280z. It would be interesting to be able to submit “corrected” versions of photos as way to help the AI learn…in this case, to learn the bit of trivia that pre-1968 cars lacked side marker lights.
Looks a bit like a cross between an E-type and a Porsche 911. I’m impressed!
As for the errant side marker lights, let’s just pretend that the ’66 belonged to a safety-conscious motorist who retrofitted them to the car a few years in. (Some people did that…I saw side markers on a ’66 Studebaker at the last car show I went to.)
The non-blacked-out pillars on that Aztek pickup remind me of the Renault Duster Oroch.