Designers reveal new interior for self-driving cars in Sunnyvale

David Louie Image
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
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Some day, automotive engineers hope for totally autonomous cars when steering wheels and human intervention won't be needed or required. While it's too early to know when that will be, it's not too early for industrial engineers to start thinking about how to reinvent the look, feel and functionality of the interiors of autonomous vehicles.

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (KGO) -- Autonomous cars are just getting started, but auto designers are already working on a new generation of interiors. Here's a first look at a working model that's starting to resemble our living rooms.

Some day when the steering wheel disappears, and that day is coming, the time will be right to reinvent the interior of autonomous cars.

Yanfeng, the world's largest supplier of auto interiors, has put two years into a working model that will change how you'll spend your time commuting.

"Since you don't have to drive anymore, your attention will turn inwards into the cabin, and that experience is going to be very similar and very comparable to the experience you have in your own home," said Yanfeng lead designer Leo Schurhaus.

With the press of a button, the interior transforms into lounge mode. The backseats disappear and the two front seats move back and recline. That allows for viewing of videos or movies.

An organic LED screen in the headliner displays mood-setting patterns.

And if you want to work, meeting mode positions the seats so they face each other. Work tables can be pulled out.

Almost anything is possible as we see industrial designers focus on the future of autonomous vehicles. We're already seeing new design concepts in commercial aircraft.

This model is being used to get automakers to rethink what drivers can do when no longer behind the wheel.

"Technology can enable radical things, but sometimes the consumers are a few steps behind. They're not ready for that big step, so we always have to be aware of what's acceptable or comfortable for the consumer," said Yanfeng Design Vice President Tim Shih.

Young automotive design students loved the concepts but had some advice.

"I feel like maybe bigger tables would be a little more practical for business and stuff like that," said automotive design student Kevin Chen.

The designers used input from consumers in Germany, China and the U.S.

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