The panoply of relevant events DVN-I covered in the first half of 2019 present a wide array of products from production cars that can be bought today, through to exotic previews of what transport might look like in the near (or far) future. All of this is in context of rapidly changing topography in the world of automotive transport: established automakers feel increasingly urgent pressure to prove they are relevant, leading runners in the race for new mobility. New participants in the field, including digital outfits, want to be recognized for the innovative products and services they offer. Meanwhile, the general perception—perhaps fuelled by popular media—is that fully autonomous, self-driving cars are just around the corner, coming soon (of course, the reality is very different).
2019’s CES was mostly dedicated to car interiors within the context of connected and autonomous vehicles, with occupants unleashed from the driving task and able to do more or less whatever else they want. Occupant experience is the key within car interiors; the space is at a new crossroads of comfort, connectivity, entertainment, gaming, and everything else to use time previously lost to driving.
In contrast, the Geneva motor show didn’t really focus on AVs. Rather, it brought us back to rational, “now” responses to “now” problems, chiefly alternatives to burning oil (electric and hydrogen vehicles).
The Shanghai motor show is surely the best on the planet to get a global view of the auto market, with most of the world’s brands—including some little-known outside of China—and a mix of global models with some China-specific designs. Shanghai showed a strong focus on all kinds of EVs and every possible SUV variant. Interiors showed off new amenities and features: bigger displays, voice and gesture controls, alerts, audio, lighting, new ambiance, occupant monitoring, comfort, you name it. Life for the vehicle occupant isn’t getting simpler, it’s getting more complicated, and sleeker and more elegant designs aren’t enough to foster real ease and peace of mind.
Same thing in New York, and vehicles presented for the WardsAuto 10 Best Interior award reflected an industry incrementally integrating technologies and design elements of the future, but retaining traditional cars (SUV or any other body shape), with additional features and technology— and the greater complexity that goes along.
Takeaway points we retain from Automotive Interior Expo held in Stuttgart confirmed the increasing trend of lightweighting, and the growing importance of interior lighting. Light is no longer in the car just to help find things in the dark; now it’s central to creating ambiance, providing information, generating alerts, personalizing the cabin according to vehicle occupants’ personal choices…all in all, lighting is playing an increasingly important role in the comfort and safety of everyone inside the car.
As far as lightweighting is concerned, it was clearly visible through lighter materials, as well as materials allowing miniaturization of components so as to reduce package space. This, in turn, is creating opportunity for automakers increase interior space and/or reduce the exterior dimensions of the car for a given cabin volume. With CO2 reduction getting more and more important, these types of opportunities are crucial to fielding vehicles responsive to today’s needs and wants.
From a business perspective, old borders between industries and sectors are changing, no matter whether we’re looking at automakers, tier-1 and -2 suppliers, or companies and industries previously wholly outside the automotive realm. There are new automakers and car brands— Byton, Polestar, Nio, Lynk & Co, Qoros, and others; previously unknown Chinese automakers like Aiways, Landwind, and Xpeng; digital outfits like GAFA, entertainment companies like Warner and Paramount, electronics companies including Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and Pioneer; computer processor suppliers such as Intel, Qualcomm, and Nvidia; mobility service providers, and many startups now jostling to produce and equip tomorrow’s mobility interiors.
Automotive Interior Shows and Conferences First Half of 2019 Industrial design—specifically automotive industrial design—is a discipline whose practitioners must wear many hats in executing their daily jobs. Whether aesthetically integrating visual and textural elements, expressing brand language, or translating consumers’ needs into tangible product solutions, their end goal of creating desire is critical to the success of today’s automotive interiors and tomorrow’s. The DVN-I Design Lounge is a new section of our newsletter, where we will be exploring the design movements, trends, and explorations of automotive Interiors. Welcome!