Self-driving cars present endless design opportunities - and some new challenges that few manufacturers have addressed.
Panelists at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars discussed the car of the future on Wednesday. While suppliers such as Yanfeng see opportunities to break out of traditional design constraints, adding luxurious movable and rotating seats, there's one less sexy - but vital - feature absent from self-driving concepts: accessibility.
A frequently touted benefit of self-driving cars is mobility for those who can't drive. Waymo CEO John Krafcik has cited his 98-year-old mother as a reason he wants to develop self-driving technology. While space-age concepts present their own set of issues - primarily, nausea - they fail to address this new population.
Autonomous vehicles will need to be able to handle wheelchair and other disability access on their own, and secure these devices within the vehicle. They'll also need to communicate with passengers who can't see, hear or speak.
This poses a significant engineering challenge.
But if this technology is intended to increase mobility options for a wider population of people, ease of access needs to be a priority in design discussions from day one.