The era of autonomous driving is coming, and many predict possible changes. Autonomous driving vehicles are expected to change not only the city that we’re living in but also the way we live – and this is not just about the means of transportation. One of the biggest changes is that every passenger will be free from driving. This includes the one in the driver’s seat. What will the future cabin be like?
Consumer Insight, a consumer research firm, recently asked around 4,500 drivers what they want to do in self-driving cars. Among the 18 options, 47 percent of the participants chose ‘sightseeing’, followed by ‘having conversations'(41 percent), ‘sleep’ (37 percent), ‘video watching’ (32 percent), and ‘having snacks’ (29 percent). Others also chose ‘internet browsing’, ‘work’, ‘study’, ‘games’, and ‘texting’.
Consumer acceptance of self-driving cars was also high. Assuming the level 4 autonomous driving is available (vehicles can intervene when things go wrong), 64% of all respondents said they would “drive selectively,” and 20% said they would “mainly use autonomous driving.” As a result, more than 80 percent of all respondents said they use autonomous driving mode, indicating that there is not much resistance to the technology.
If self-driving technology becomes true, things we do inside the cabin will change by a lot. In addition, as the importance of ‘in-car experience’ grows, automakers are releasing related technologies one by one. In an era of full driving automation that could change the concept of transportation, there will be new technologies for our future.
The Seat Technology Maximizing Space Usage
In the world of autonomous driving, cars will no longer be a means of transportation. The steering wheel is gone and all the seats adjust freely to maximize space usage. Hyundai Transys started developing self-driving seats in 2016 and has introduced second-generation self-driving seat technology. The 1st-generation concept-seat included 5 different modes, from Easy Access which made getting in and out of the car easier, Autonomous, Communication, Relax, and Cargo. Each mode offers different positions, made possible by forward-backward tracking on the floor, as well as a 180-degree swivel base.
The technology applied to the seats, which increases the utility of cabin spaces and passenger convenience, has also been applied to Hyundai Motor Company’s EV Concept 45. The EV Concept 45 houses slim seats to maximize the cabin space, and the swivel feature which makes the seats rotate helps passengers sit face to face, or get in and out of the car. EV Concept 45 also represents the potential aspect of self-driving cars evolving from means of transportation to living space, through customized interior concepts.
A center console is replaced by the smart armrest for the swiveling seats of the second-gen autonomous concept. The smart armrest slides out only when needed, hence better utility and convenience. Also, the second-generation concept-seats were designed with the Genesis’ luxurious cabin interior – for its VIP passengers – in mind. The cupholder was designed to house hot/cold beverages, and the Geonic patterns on the surface of the seat, made with eco-friendly recycled wool, is another luxurious catch.
Safety Features For Self-driving Vehicles
Advanced safety technologies are introduced for self-driving vehicles, as well. Autonomous cars in the future should benefit from the ‘Hug Airbag’ since the passengers will be sitting in all different directions. Hyundai Motor Group has recently unveiled its Hug Airbag, and it contains the hints of our future airbags. The Hug Airbag consists of three ‘chambers’; each chamber works differently depending on the location. And each chamber is firmly connected with a tether, and this is how Hug Airbag can hold the body tight in a crash.
Infotainment Features Enabling ‘Smart’ Travels
Along with the development of self-driving technologies, infotainment technology, such as bigger display, is also drawing attention. According to Samsung Electronics, at CES 2020, the company unveiled Digital Cockpit 2020, as part of the co-development between HARMAN International, that utilizes 5G to link features and provide connected experiences for drivers and passengers alike. Using eight displays and eight cameras, the solution enables seamless two-way connections between the home, the office, and all the other spaces that users may visit while providing personalized experiences and in-car infotainment. What’s more, smart features using face recognition technology are possible through a customized infotainment system that actively support the driver.
The way to control the features is evolving – from directly touching buttons and dials to using touch screens and gesture control. HMG presents more advanced touch technology that would suit autonomous vehicles perfectly. The next-generation touch technology developed by HMG allows touch sensors to be implanted in all parts of the vehicle, regardless of material or shape. For example, the driver can control air conditioning by gently brushing air vents with hands. As such, passengers can intuitively control all features anywhere in the vehicle, and the boundary between the control panels and the interior elements will disappear. Such innovative changes in the cockpit are expected in the near future.
Audio System Perfect for Self-driving Vehicles
The audio system also plays an important part in a vehicle as it will still be in charge of creating the in-car entertainment system in the era of autonomous driving. Continental and Sennheiser unveiled speakerless audio systems at the CES 2020. The ‘actuators’ stimulate the surface of each interior element to create sound. Most importantly, it can reduce weight significantly – up to 40 kilograms – by removing all speakers from the car, and that will also create extra space. Parts of the dashboard, pillars, trim, and even the ceiling can all be used to produce sound, providing a wonderful sound system.
HMG revealed its next-generation Separated Sound Zone (SSZ) technology that creates and controls the acoustic fields of the car, allowing the driver and each passenger to hear isolated sounds, including news and music. This system will provide drivers and passengers with tailored, independent audio spaces especially in a self-driving car, where passengers can do so many different things including work, rest, or entertainment features, and they will experience a more comfortable and exciting ride.
Changes in the Interior Elements in the Era of Self-driving Cars
In addition, future self-driving cars are expected to house a variety of advanced technologies to provide much more diverse functions. Hyundai has showcased ‘Wellness Care’ to check the driver’s health in self-driving cars. The sensors could measure and detect stress levels, heart rate, heart-rate variability for stress response, and even emotional state. Such technology is expected to be highly useful when paired with other autonomous driving technologies such as ‘untact’ diagnosis and emergency health check.
In addition, the in-vehicle payment system ‘Car Pay’, wireless software update system ‘Over The Air (OTA)’, artificial intelligence assistant that can recognize natural language voice, and ‘Car to Home’, which controls home IoT devices in vehicles, all of which are already used in Hyundai vehicles, are considered as future technologies for self-driving vehicles.
The technologies related to self-driving cars introduced by global automakers and IT companies, including HMG, are being quickly applied to mass-produced cars to provide various conveniences, and the upcoming new technologies will bring the era of self-driving forward. Autonomous vehicles housing these technologies are expected to transform our in-car experience by huge. Let’s look forward to the era of autonomous driving; where the means of transportation turns into a decent living space.