Imagining autonomous/electric vehicle experiences in 2030

Today's eMobility - design

Material science advancements could support the weight, thermal management, noise, and comfort features demanded in futuristic vehicles.

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February 28, 2020

A family transport vehicle could offer spacious autonomous-capable driving, numerous infotainment screens, seating for six-to-seven passengers, changing ambient lighting, windscreen movie projection, built-in gaming options, a stowaway game/activity table, and swiveling front seats.
All photos coutresy of Covestro LLC

Electric vehicles (EVs), autonomous vehicles (AVs), and ridesharing are changing design plans for the rider experiences of tomorrow. To realize future designs, automakers and designers are expanding the range of traditional automotive materials to create extraordinary future interiors.

Imagining 2030

In the 2030s, autonomous, rideshare vehicles will take riders on a different type of journey – one that seamlessly combines design, non-driving-related experiences, and smart functionality not available with today’s vehicles. Materials will enable advanced aesthetics and styling, acoustics, comfort, infotainment, and sustainability features.

Autonomous rideshare vehicles will be in near-constant use, accumulating miles quickly and pushing material boundaries. Cleanability, serviceability, and modularity will be key to minimize vehicle downtime. Seating will need to be lightweight and durable to easily swap out with replacement parts, allowing off-line maintenance and renovations. Users will expect to exert greater control over their environments, and interiors will take on a much different feel. The emphasis shifts from driving to the experience in the cabin. These vehicles will also feature large, interactive displays with integrated sensors that respond to touch, voice commands, or gestures.

Consumers will expect enhanced comfort for relaxation and will look for ways to change the ambience. No matter the destination, interior options that hold up to seven riders can allow them to experience the destination en-route by setting the scene using virtual reality and lighting effects. From sharing detailed hiking guides, transforming into a dance floor, or providing game matchup insights, the possibilities are practically endless.

Interior configuration options may include large windows, a spacious backseat with a storage compartment, or individual stools with a ledge to hold food and drink. High passenger traffic will create a need for durable, easy-to-clean, scratch- and chemical-resistant interiors.

Electric vehicles force a rethink of space utilization. Interior components must be lightweight for greater energy efficiency which leads to greater vehicle range. Silence is critical in an EV where there’s no internal combustion engine (ICE) noise, putting a priority on abating noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH).

Heating or cooling takes valuable energy away from the battery, losses which could decrease range. Therefore, maximizing thermal performance of the vehicle cabin with materials conserves battery power. Heat-reflecting panoramic roofs and thermally insulated interiors that reduce energy for air conditioning or heating could become more popular to keep the cabin comfortable.

Ridesharing will require future vehicles to accommodate the needs of many. Today’s vehicles are used only 5% of the time and are parked idle for the remaining 95%, according to a 2016 Fortune article by David Z. Morris. Ridesharing will increase vehicle use and create new durability demands.

Materials will need to withstand a constant stream of passengers without significant maintenance. Ridesharing vehicles will feature minimal construction with larger panels instead of many smaller components that can trap dirt in between them.

Emotions will also play a role in the ridesharing experience. As consumers pay more attention to the experience of riding for pleasure, they will desire high-quality materials with a high-value look and feel. Signature, stylized lighting for example, can be customized to the rider’s preferences.

The destination thru journey experience would have an interior to hold five-to-seven riders, allowing them to experience the destination en-route by setting the scene with virtual reality and lighting effects.

Use cases

The following 2030 experiences imagine how theoretical drivers and passengers will react to market trends. For example, an interior for a mom driving a carpool of kids and their gear to various sporting events and activities will require different features compared to an interior designed to transport a young professional to work.

Family vehicles – An AV/EV may offer innovative storage solutions for kids, groceries, and smelly sports equipment. A premium family transport vehicle could offer first-class treatment with luxury seating and surfaces in the front with plenty of room for kids and gear in the back atop a highly durable floor. Large, seamless displays and panels reduce the need for additional parts and weight, while creating a smooth impression. Separate, outside accessible compartments segregate the sport smells and provide removable batteries to extend vehicle range.

Driving machine vehicles would have daytime, nighttime, or relaxing driving modes. The interior would have a luxury feel with back-lit wood flooring, leather-alternative seats with illuminated stitching, and ambient mood lighting.

Premium sedan – A high-end AV/EV sedan could allow driving control yet provide automation when desired. The interior would impart a luxury feel with warm wood flooring, comfortable leather-alternative seats with illuminated stitching, and ambient mood lighting. Other features could include front-row seating that slides back, displays that blend seamlessly into walls, wraparound rear seating with built-in speakers, rearview camera displays, and navigational graphics projected on the windscreen.

Personal mass transit experience – A high-value rideshare AV would offer a private, secure place to work or unwind for two-to-four passengers. Each space has its own entrance/exit. In total privacy, passengers can participate in video conference calls, send emails, and stay up-to-date on news, weather, and the stock market. They could also relax by listening to music, watching a movie, or video chatting with friends. Sound dampened walls, plush seating, molded-in haptic controls, and storage compartments would provide an easy, comfortable commute.

Mass-transit, on-demand, rideshare – A semi-private space would offer limited customization. Each rider would be welcomed to a reserved space with directional and seat accent lighting. Lighting and infotainment would be tailored to each passenger. Riders could take advantage of Internet connectivity, display systems, adjustable seating, and storage options. Durable flooring surfaces would allow easy, quick clean-up between passengers.

Personal mass transit vehicles would be rideshare autonomous-capable models offering a private, secure place to work for two to four passengers. Each space would have an individual entrance/exit.

Materials

The driving force bringing interiors of the future to life is material science. Each material offers key features and benefits for a variety of applications to enhance the rider experience.

Polycarbonates

  • Ambient lighting: Polycarbonate materials enable ambient lighting to adapt to each rider, experience
  • Interactive displays: Projection or large, interactive displays will feature polycarbonate materials to share information, visuals for work and entertainment; seamless displays, panels reduce need for additional parts and weight
  • Modular seating: Polycarbonates support lightweight, modular seating for easy maintenance, stylized surfaces
  • EV batteries: Lightweight polycarbonates reduce battery draw, improve heat management; thermally conductive polycarbonates support heat load management to pull heat from temperature-sensitive components
  • Seat back: Thermoplastic polycarbonate composites offer luxury aesthetics, sturdy structural properties
Premium family transport would contain innovative storage solutions for kids, groceries, and cargo such as smelly sports equipment. Front luxury features would include premium seating and surfaces.

Polyurethanes

  • Lightweight interiors: Lightweight materials provide required stiffness for rigid molded composite parts such as load floors, floor modules
  • Noise abatement: Vibration dampening reduces, blocks external noise
  • Thermal insulation: Maximize energy use, reduce energy draw for air conditioning, heating
  • Seating: Comfortable, safe, seating with high load-bearing capacity

Thermoplastic polyurethanes

  • Enhanced haptics: Pleasant touch for personalized options to control environment

High-performance coatings, specialty films

  • Floors: Durable, easy-to-clean floors, interior components via textile coatings, thick film elastomeric coatings
  • Seating: Polyurethane textile coatings improve elongation, recovery characteristics; prevent wrinkling
The workplace commute vehicle would welcome each rider to a reserved space with directional and seat accent lighting. Lighting and infotainment would be tailored to each passenger.

Conclusion

Since the invention of the internal combustion engine in the 19th century, the individual vehicle ownership model has by and large, remained the same. AVs, EVs, connectivity, ownership models, and ridesharing are disrupting this model and significantly impacting the value chain.

Covestro LLC https://www.covestro.us

About the author: Paul Platte is senior marketing manager for Mobility – Polycarbonates at Covestro LLC. He can be reached at plastics@covestro.com.