The configirable interior from the Volvo Concept 26 (image: Volvo)
Autonomy, connectivity to radically change vehicle design, ownership
Speakers at a session at the 2018 Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich. on how autonomy developments will affect the design and use of personal vehicles agree that profound changes are coming—although some undoubtedly faster than others.
Seat maker Adient’s Dr. Detlef Juerss, VP of engineering and chief technology office, said, “For a very long time, there will be very traditional cars,” but added that increasing levels of driver-assist and autonomous features will enhance the comfort, convenience and safety of even everyday vehicles.
Dr. RJ Scaringe, founder and CEO of Rivian, a startup aiming to produce an all-new electric-vehicle architecture for SUVs and pickup trucks—as well as its own “self-driving system”—takes a more sweeping view, however, calling today’s ownership model for personal vehicles “fundamentally flawed” and that “new (transportation) consumption models will have a profound impact on our business.”
Scaring said personal-ownership of vehicles isn’t efficient and will tail off as automated driving functionality and the resultant mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) business models become the more financially attractive option. “Once we allow the vehicle to operate itself,” he said, society will be able to re-evaluate the ownership model.
Adient’s Juerss seems to describe a transportation progression towards something resembling the vision of Scaringe, describing three “emergent” mobility types that he believes will largely define the market’s transformation:
Shared vehicles will operate mostly in mega-cities and congested areas and be based on a model of high utilization, urban space efficiency (i.e. comparatively small footprints) and increased safety.
Owned autonomous vehicles will be most prevalent in medium-sized cities, Juerss said, and offer increased comfort and functional safety for long-distance drives. And there will remain traditional and vintage vehicles that are owned by individuals and used recreationally and for special purposes.
Ian Simmons, VP of business development, corporate engineering and R&D for Magna (right), agreed with Juerss that “There are going to be vehicles you own for many years to come,” adding that he believes the mobility future lies in multi-modal solutions that may take many forms.
To support his multi-modal view, Simmons presents the example of a recent study that examined the time required to travel 1 mile (0.6 km) in central London. The trip took 17 minutes, 41 sec. by car, 7 minutes and 15 sec by motorcycle—and the fastest trip was by bicycle.
The multi-modal view is leading Magna, Simmons said, to orient its vehicle-structure development towards modular architectures that can address various use cases for a wide variety of potential end users. Flexible architectures, he said, will enable the manufacture of vehicles to suit purposes that range from consumer transportation to commercial uses that range from private mobility to delivery and other services.
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