Standfirst: Autonomous-driven vehicles are redefining the car interior. CDN highlights the best of the recent crop
GAC Space Vision
With high-level autonomous driving looking increasingly likely, designers are reconsidering interior layouts and the kind of functionality on offer. But to avoid the car becoming little more than a train carriage, careful consideration is also going into the design. GAC’s Space concept is one such example.
It may be minivan by shape but inside is a different story with a new kind of interior layout – more social, more open. Rotating armchairs sit up front while a plush corner-style sofa occupies the rear, bleeding into the door cards and supported by a discrete coffee table. “That L-shaped sofa is the most important part of the interior,” observes Fan Zhang, VP and head of global design at GAC.
Decorative wood-effect strips follow the contour of the roofline and engulf the main compartment, while hidden lighting adds warmth and creates attractive shadows. Taking centre stage is an extending two-seater sofa which folds out of the boot, bringing a new kind of indoor-outdoor experience to the interior.
It is ironic that the Gen.Travel, perhaps the most futuristic-looking vehicle VW has ever made, is in fact inspired by a car from the 1920s: the Rumpler Tropfenwagen. Bulbous and curiously proportioned, it is one vision of how long-distance driving might look in future.
That funky exterior hides a similarly unusual interior layout, which is not only devoid of a steering wheel and pedals, but an instrument panel altogether. Peter Wouda, design director at Volkswagen Group Future Centre, describes it as a “digital detox, a room with high class materials where you really feel comfortable.”
And comfort is the aim of the game here, but in more senses than one. The seats (complete with knitted seat covers made of felt and karuun) recline fully to allow passengers to sleep or relax. That’s only possible if they feel mentally comfortable to let the car handle the driving, of course. By all reports that has not been a problem, at least for Wouda: “I tested it and for the first couple of minutes it is quite weird: no steering wheel, no pedals. If you trust the system and relax it is so easy to fall asleep.”
At more than six metres long, Lincoln’s L100 concept gave the interior designers plenty of space to work with. Inspired by the exuberant luxury limousines of the 1950s, the vast interior is all about opulence and comfort.
However, the materials that have been chosen highlight the changing definition of what that actually means; rather than fine virgin leather, the interior is clad with animal-free materials and recycled sueded fabric. Ambient lighting in the cabin is “orchestrated”, says Lincoln, to “harmonise sound, scent and touch.”
Like the other two models included in this roundup, the L100 is influenced by an autonomous driving future. In this case, the interior is in fact designed around shared automation, meaning the car or the human could drive depending on the situation or preference. An interactive centre console replaces the steering wheel and the front row of seats can be flipped forward to create a social setting.