For as long as self-driving vehicles have captured the imagination, there have been those unsettled by the prospect of soulless econoboxes and utilitarian pods dominating the roadway.
"Everyone is worried that it's this lowest-cost box," said Larry Erickson, global director of industrial design at Magna. "Is it possible we'll see some things on the road that we wish we didn't see? That's a possibility. But with this many competitors in a global market, the best product is going to win."
Automotive designers are already adapting to accommodate the arrival of autonomous capabilities, contemplating how to package sensors and telecommunications gear in traditional vehicle types. But that's just a start. Looking ahead, they foresee more substantial overhauls that will change the relationship between people and vehicles.
The demands of future-minded vehicle design was a leading topic during the mobility portion of the Los Angeles Auto Show last month. Italian design company Icona attracted a good bit of attention with the unveiling of its Nucleus concept, a two-generations-ahead vehicle that eliminates traditional controls for a human driver and contains a "new understanding of mobile living space."