DETROIT -- The first autonomous cars are years away from being sold to consumers but they are already influencing automotive interior designers.
In a speech Wednesday at the WardsAuto Interiors Conference, Andrew Smith, executive director of global Cadillac design, said GM’s design staff is already thinking about how the interior will change if the car drives itself.
He said the experience occupants have in an autonomous vehicle could be radically different than in a normal car.
“At a basic level as a designer, you could ask should everyone face forward in an autonomous car? Do you still need a steering wheel? What do occupants do with all that time since they won’t be driving?”
Another challenge interior designers will wrestle with, Smith said, is how to present numerous types of data -- audio, visual, internet, etc. -- in a way that vehicle occupants in autonomous cars can easily manage.
“As you can see as designers we are being called on to use our imagination to redefine the customer experience. The stakes are really high at the moment. We’re on the verge of so much technical innovation.”
Smith cited four companies -- Starbucks, Nike, Disney and Virgin -- that consistently create consumer experiences that go beyond their products and create new and unexpected “signature moments that surprise and delight customers.” That is the challenge interior designers will face as the automobile changes.
Says Smith: “Today’s customers demand more than a great product. They demand a great experience.”