When cars control themselves, people have time for other things. That’s why designers now design offices, sleeping capsules and luxury wheeled suites. This will change not only driving but also business models.
Pia greets you as soon as you drop into one of the chairs. It makes sure that the right radio station is running, and knows which lighting you like because it recognizes one on your smartphone. It activates the massage function when the neck is tense – and anyone who freezes recommends the seat heating.
Pia is the voice of an artificial intelligence designed to make your stay in the autonomous car as comfortable as possible. At least when it comes to Audi boss designer Marc Lichte, who has designed Pia.
It will not be long before driverless vehicles are on the road. BMW, for example, plans to build the first self-propelled cars from 2021 onwards. The industry is facing one of its biggest challenges:
how does the car of the future have to be? Which requirements should it satisfy?
According to estimates by the consulting firm PwC, traditional manufacturers and suppliers, who are currently collecting 70 percent of the profits in the industry, will have to settle for only half of what can be earned with cars by 2030.
The reason for this are providers of networked technologies and digital services, which push themselves between the manufacturer and the customer – just as the chauffeur service Uber demonstrates with its pick-up function via smartphone wipe.
Only those who understand how to set the right accents in terms of technology, comfort and design will have a chance of winning in this new mobility game.
What will be important in the future is shown by Marc Lichte with the concept car Audi Aicon. The vehicle is controlled with artificial intelligence and introduces itself, as I said, with a female voice, as Pia. And Pia can do a lot.
It picks up its (smartphone) users on its own doorstep, illuminates them with a built-in drone on boarding and alighting – and is otherwise designed as a kind of smart living room on wheels that adapts to the preferences and needs of travelers. “We have designed the Audi Aicon as a luxury vehicle of the future, which is designed especially for travel on long journeys,” emphasizes Lichte.
Four interior modes in a car
Not just Audi, just about all car manufacturers, work on the question of what the car looks like when it drives alone one day. Volkswagen has developed a self-driving minibus with its VW Sedric, which can be used as an office or meeting room.
Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, a Chinese-Irish supplier of automotive interiors, recently presented a concept vehicle that can switch between the four Drive, Lounge, Family and Meeting modes – depending on the setting, the seats move to or from each other, and in family mode, it slides in Origami table in the middle.
BMW has already shown a car that can be controlled via a hologram, that is, via control elements projected into the room. Renault has designed with Symbioz a lounge-like luxury sedan: The seats can be rotated like a living room to each other; light falls through a glass dome roof; Seats in gray fabric, copper-colored fittings and a pull-out marble table spread a homely atmosphere.
Rolling offices, moving luxury suites or sleeping capsules on wheels: everything is possible. If cars no longer need a steering wheel, are also so sure that seat belts are superfluous, and with the electric mobility even the space for the internal combustion engine is eliminated – then the interior can be designed as free as never before. For car designers, these are golden, creative times.