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Some thoughts about car interiors of the near future

By Rigval on 30 Apr 2011

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I have been doing a little bit of reading here and there about the future of car interiors. Aside from the fact that I had nothing else better to do I have realized that I actually spend a whole lot of my time in my cars and also the other cars I happen to get my hands on from time to time. An average person would spend at least an hour or two in their car trying to get from here to there during rush hour or trying to get about town and that car seat and all the controls like the steering wheel, gear shifter and hand controls are what you interact with as you drive. But note that in the near future, you will see that only the seat you are on and the steering wheel in front of you would be similar to the car of today.

The sketch you see above is one of a future Audi A3 Sedan. Ignore the funky steering wheel as it may be drawn that way to show the rest of the dashboard. And what do you actually see? A dashboard devoid of signal switches, wiper stalks and gear knobs. We already see a lack of gear knobs and shifters in the latest BMWs, Mercedes' and Jaguars. This has turned into a rotary selector on the transmission tunnel. And according to Audi the dashboard you see is how the envision their future interiors to be, slightly different from what we expect these days.

We will also see wiper stalks/controls going missing as when most cars adopt automatic rain sensing wipers and then light switches going missing too when all cars adopt light sensing automatic headlights and cars that will detect lane changes and auto signal (this may happen eventually).

And then you add the fact that you now have multi-media systems in the car telling you the temperature, location, air conditioning and entertainment in one screen (which will be touch sensitive and voice activated soon) and everything will be controlled through it soon. You can either scroll through a smartphone like interface to reach for the wipers if you want them on manually or you can do that Star Trek thingy and say 'Computer, wipers on to full. Rain factor heavy'. And so you do not need hand controls any more.

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Check out the interior photograph above. The interior is a design study that was actually designed by Johnson Controls, the people who are actually at the forefront of automobile interior systems and OE manufacturer to most manufacturers around the world. Note the sparse interior that is dominated by the instrument cluster, multi media screen and the armrest that has all the necessary controls. Say bye-bye to signal stalks, gear shifter and wiper stalks. Say hello to a cleaner looking car interior.

And before you know it, car manufacturers will get rid of the steering, brake pedal and throttle pedal too. Everything will be automated and hidden away. Remember the Audi R90 that was featured in I-Robot? That Will Smith movie with the futuristic Audi (pictured below)? He had the option to over-ride the computer to drive manually. This is the future and it isn't that far away actually. Whether we like it or not, as is usually the case. And since all of these changes omit lots of 'unimportant' stuff, can we expect larger and deeper cupholders for those extra large coffee cups?

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Written by Rigval
Born in 1972. Married with a kid. Loves B-road drives and have driven cars from the 1950s to date.

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Ilmw May 01 2011 02:59 PM
Apple have this design philosophy with its (LED) indicator. When an indicator is not lit, it shouldn't be seen. Only when it is lit, when it is indicating something, it would be visible.

If you sleep on this idea, it actually is very logical. Even when an (LED) indicator is not lit, you can still see its unlit shape and placement on where it is placed. This is not elegant from a design point of view.

Coming back to cars, air vents. Using the same idea, air vents shouldn't be seen. What we've seen so far in the industry, is that they try to incorporate the shape/design of the air vents into the car by matching them with other elements. If they screw up the job, the air vents are super ugly.
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