Getting serious about the interior, Part 2
Thoughts on Apple Car, Part 132
The most interesting question about the future car is not how the exterior will look like, but the interior.
However, today’s automakers are still focused on changes to the exterior when they design new cars. The dominant design concepts at this year’s technology and automotive shows are about the outside looks of the cars.
They move forward with the same design attitude they have been showing for a couple of years: Cars look more like each other, a new conformity to max out existing consumer appeal. No big bets.
Although future autonomous and electric vehicles open up completely new realms of design, carmakers are stuck in the present.
Surprise: The present result of this worldview is a lack of uniqueness, as has been very ably described by Adrian Hanft.
Look at SUVs: Hanft argues that they all look the same, because no one is willing to experiment.
Automakers are all so happy they found a working recipe, they decided: Let’s exploit it. The invention of this recipe has a history that’s not very well known outside of the industry and was a lucky accident: Nissan was on the brink of financial ruin and needed a model that made a turnaround possible. They tried something new with the Qashqai, and ta-da, the SUV was born and success immediately followed. Also, everyone else followed.
Today, SUVs make up most of carmakers’ portfolio and contribute significantly to congestion and further pollution.
They are the mainstream car design. Why?
Why are SUVs loved? It must be psychological.
Let’s go back in history a little bit.
Humankind lived in caves for hundreds of years, shielded by rocks, sheltered inside. When out and about we need to feel strong like predators, with the muscle to overpower others.
Today we live in houses and apartments, but we still want the same when we drive around, and SUVs give us that. This effect has been well researched, and the safety of a car remains a top buying decision in many regions of the world.
But can there be more?
How can automotive design offer a different or even better way to fulfill those needs?
People judge a car from the exterior, that’s how the advertisement works (which says „be individual!“ when really all cars look the same) and the outside is what has the most design-driven influence on the buying decision.
We look at the car, from the outside.
The interior is an afterthought, because once we’re in, we only look out of the car.
We hardly spend any time looking around in the car, consciously interacting with the materials, surfaces and interfaces of the interior.
What if that changes?
If design starts to cater our caving needs directly, what happens?
Everything turns around
- The inside will be individual, not the outside.
- The inside will be the buying decision, not the outside.
- The inside will be what we look at most of the time.
Everything will be different. That’s why we should be getting serious about the interior.
Th implications become quite clear with the following thought experiment:
Like a regular room that we live or work in, we try to make it as individual as possible. The same happens when cars become personal rooms that travel. Huge businesses have been built around interior design, furniture and homes. Think IKEA.
That’s why the interior space needs to be as big as possible. Not constrained by the exterior design, but designed from the inside out.
It needs to accommodate for standing up, much like a train or plane. This is unheard of in today’s cars. But it shouldn’t be, because the space should belong to the user.
It wants to be as clean as possible with its standard hardware, in order to be open for further customization. That’s why it will have AR rather than displays. It will have integrated HomePods with Siri. It will have wireless charging rather than cables.
It will have special doors, unlike anything we see in today’s cars or buses. Doors like the ones described in Leander Kahney’s new Tim Cook biography, like the doors of Apple stores and Apple Park. They will open triggered by FaceID.
To make any inside activity worthwhile, the space needs as little shaking as possible. I expect something similar to the special suspension Bose developed. Four independent wheels for going any direction.
Hence, the outside will be standardized, with unobstrusive sensors and solar panels on top, all-glass walls, and wooden floors that can almost go down to basement level.
Everything that goes away when consequently applying electric and autonomous design implications, results in a cube.