TAILOR YOUR TAXI
YOU’VE SPENT MOST OF THE DAY on your feet, traipsing the malls, and it’s time to head off home. So you fire up your ride-sharing app, ticking the “Deluxe back and thigh” massage option for yourself and “Live TV” option for your companion. Moments later, at your nearest exit, your autonomous ride whispers to a halt. You step closer and the front seats swivel to face each other. Your seat slides down to a semi-reclining position. The door opens and a cheery voice announces, “Hi, Jack” (clearly, the app is still in Beta form) and in the background is the throbbing beat of Metallica, your favourite. Could this be your 2020 taxi?
What got me thinking along these lines is a discussion I had shortly before the picture above was taken. The picture shows me after a day-and-a-half at the Frankfurt Show, getting a feel for what the interior of future mobility could look like and, by the way, resting my toasted feet.
As much as we think that self-driving vehicles are all about GPS, radar, cameras, connectivity and the computers that will run everything, we’re missing a big chunk of the story. The fact is, if we to a large extent will become passengers, society might have to rethink how and what it does on the road.
For one thing, there’s a distinction to be made between cars meant to be bought and cars meant for sharing, says Andreas Maashoff, Adient’s industrial design and research director responsible for Europe and Asia Pacific. You may not know Adient, but you quite possibly have used its products: seats. One of its brands is Recaro. And if you think a seat is just a dumb thing you slump into, consider that already they are talking about a seat with biometric features, health and safety systems including massage options, able to monitor your wellbeing and communicate it to those who need to know.
The concept shown by Adient has a normal mode in which the two main (front) seats face forward and the rears are not deployed. This gives you good storage space in the back. Then there’s a mode in which both seats are in a deep recline, like a pair of loungers. Communication mode swivels one seat through 180 degrees so you sit face to face. Finally, in family mode, the front seats face forward, the rear cushions deploy and you can seat four people in short to medium-term comfort. You can set up all of this through a smartphone app, even in advance.
In future, we will be our own urban mobility interior designers, choosing features and product content from a bouquet. Viva freedom of choice, viva! Although… you can bet there will be some interesting tussles ahead about who exactly gets to choose the music.