Toyota showed off this concept autonomous vehicle at the 2019 Canadian International Auto Show. Seats can swivel so passengers can face each other as the car drives on its own.
By Adam Malik
There’s a theory out there that by introducing automated driving through ride sharing and mobility-as-a-service options, apprehensions of the technology will decrease.
It’s easy to connect the thought dots. As people see these cars and get into them, fears will decrease and trust will go up as these vehicles will ideally get people from Point A to Point B without any issues. As consumer comfort grows, sales of self-driving cars will follow – slowly at first, however.
There are also those who own cars but dislike the idea of driving. Or they merely see a vehicle as a device to get them to and from work or the grocery store. They will look forward to the automated alternative and, generally, be early adopters.
All of this will add up to a fairly even split between personal vehicles being rarely driven and shared vehicles operating autonomously throughout the day, according to a recent Global Automotive Executive Survey from business advisory firm KPMG.
“If driving activities are taken over by the vehicle, the mobile space becomes a place for social interaction and collaboration.”
What does the mean for the future? It’s time for the focus to shift away from the exterior aesthetics of the vehicle – how it looks, how it performs, quality and safety – and look to the interior features.
There are two main places people care about – their office and their home. Comfortable chairs and a solid desk at work, for example, and a big screen television and sofa to relax on at home. With the advent of driving technology, a third one will be equated at the same level – their vehicle.
“In the new mobility world, the car interior will develop into a ‘third living space,’” Caroline Hartmann, fashion team designer of automotive at Stahl Design Studios, a German design company, told Automotive IQ.
When cars become automated and the driver – or, more accurately the primary passenger – can sit back and relax, the interior of the vehicle is going to take on added significance, she added.
“If driving activities are taken over by the vehicle, the mobile space becomes a place for social interaction and collaboration,” KPMG said in its report.
“Changing customer requirements will challenge and demand new interior concepts to make better use of their time,” it added. “This ranges from comfort aspects to ensure a passenger’s well-being while driving but concentrating on something else, to smart glass technologies for surfaces in the car in order to not only enable connectivity but also entertainment and medialization.”
When the firm spoke to consumers, 61 per cent said that how they spend time in the car will be the only thing that matters – the traditional reasons with which they used to buy a car will be irrelevant.
Automakers have been showing off concept cars for a few years now that give clues to what the future vehicle interiors will look like. Front seats can turn all the way around so that passengers can either look out the front or be facing passengers in the back. Desks may be available to create a workstation. A sofa-like seating area could allow for passengers to nap.