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The interior of driverless cars: 5 game-changing business models

Driverless mobility will radically change car interior as we know it. (Photo: Volkswagen)

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Angelo Rychel
Angelo Rychel
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Cars as restaurants? Cars as a doctor’s office? Driverless mobility will boost countless new business models for vehicles. An expert predicts the most exciting use cases – and how they will alter the interior design of cars.

Warren Schramm, Technical Director at Teague

Driving for fun is something Warren Schramm can relate to. “I am a car guy,” he says, “so it’s hard for me to say that in 15 years’ time, only a few people will still own a car.” But while he may lament that development as a private citizen, it is something that excites him in his professional life.

Schramm is Technical Director at Teague, a Seattle-based design consultancy that focuses on innovative solutions for travel and mobility. In his work with various carmakers, Schramm has observed a change in mentality. “Companies are becoming a mobility gateway for customers. They are starting to look at the passenger experience.” With mobility becoming increasingly automated, shared and connected, new possibilities regarding how passengers can use their time in a car are arising – possibilities that were unthinkable just a couple of years ago.

The check-in vehicle

Photo: iStock / RyanJLane

“In the near term, say 2022 to 2025, we will see opportunities for all kinds of partnerships – for instance between an airline and a rental car company. Imagine you are not only booking a flight, but also the transport directly to your gate. You will get a notification on your smartphone regarding when your driverless car will pick you up. The vehicle could look very similar to some of the microbus concepts from Volkswagen. However, it would be completely configured for the purposes of the airline.

When you open the trunk and put your bags in, you will automatically check-in your bag. Owned by the airline, the car will be equipped to scan and label your bag. The cabin is TSA-approved meaning the identification process, as well as the body scan, can take place in the car. When you get out of the car at the airport, you will therefore already be security cleared and ready to depart. These new partnerships enable all sorts of streamlined processes that we haven’t seen before.”

The driving restaurant

Photo: iStock / kokouu

“Domino’s pizza has already installed built-in pizza ovens in all of their conventional cars. This marks the beginning of a completely new business model. Now we will see OEMs develop modular platforms where companies can request driverless cars customized to their needs.

Experience style restaurants could be promising concepts. Imagine this: An autonomous vehicle picks up you and your date. The dinner then takes place inside the car as you cruise along the coast. An exclusive experience – but also fairly inexpensive as the vehicle could be used for other purposes during the day. A more democratized version would be that the meal is prepared in advance, then served in the car before heading off. In a higher-end version, the chef could actually prepare the meal right in front of you. Here, you would obviously need specific air conditioning and storage areas for the food.

These restaurant models are dependent on technology that has not yet become the focus of carmakers. For a standing type of environment, there is a lot of stabilization needed. Once it will be technologically possible to isolate your platform from the movement around you then these scenarios will become reality.”

The trip is the appointment

Photo: Daimler

“You will be able to go to the tailor, see the doctor, meet your accountant – without visiting that person anymore. They will show up where you are and take you where you need to go. If you are driving home after work, you could use that time to take care of your finances or see your dentist. If your trip is 45 minutes to an hour, there will be plenty of time to get things done. In an autonomous car, you can have complete privacy with your doctor or your accountant inside the vehicle. They are not paid to drive, they are professionals that use the space as their office – with the additional benefit of taking you to your destination.

Dynamic scheduling – which is already used by ride-hailing services like Uber – will keep a doctor completely busy during the day, while you will no longer have to wait in a waiting room. Also consider the increasing role of telepresence in health care. Imagine a car that is equipped with everything that is needed for a reliable teleconference as well as certain medical equipment: you could visit your doctor and he wouldn’t even need to physically be there.”

Go to sleep, wake up in Vegas

Photo: iStock / Geber86

“Autonomous cars will dramatically impact short-haul air travel. Most of us would prefer to go to sleep and wake up somewhere else. If you take a plane, the airport eats at least two hours of your time plus the duration of the flight. An autonomous car on the other hand would simply show up in the evening and take you to your destination while you sleep in a comfortable bed. Your journey could even end in a place where you could take a shower, freshen up – and you’re ready to go. There would be no waste of time.

One a different note on saving time – a revolutionary new sort of economy could come into play once all vehicles are connected: paying to get somewhere faster than other people. If it’s important to me, I am willing to spend more money. My car is now paying other cars in front of me to get out of my way. If it’s not important to me to get to a certain place in a certain time, I would be okay to be set back in line: as long as I am paid, that’s great. Somebody could choose to pay me two dollars to pass me. Their car is going to come up behind me, see that I am offering the ability to pass me for a buck and a digital transaction will take place.”

New mobility for elderly people

Photo: iStock / FlairImages

“Japan is already experimenting with self-driving vehicles to keep elderly people mobile and active. This could really change mobility for that part of the population – and for children as well. For both ends of the age spectrum, you have a very different set of requirements. The entrance needs to be addressed, the way that the vehicle moves – and the equipment in the car. Electric monitoring is becoming very pervasive. Take for instance technology that detects the drowsiness of the driver by checking blinking features and facial expressions with a camera. Meanwhile, Ford is experimenting with heart-rate sensors implemented into the seat.

Equally important is the way a vehicle communicates information to its passenger to create trust. We recently worked on a concept using screens on the outside of the vehicle to identify the rider. So the screen would say: ´Hi Warren, welcome to your car`. Speed, oil level – data that is interesting to the person behind the wheel: that’s fading away. So now the HMI has to give you a set of human information: ´Hi Warren, let’s go to the supermarket. Your journey is going to take ten minutes.` Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft are already offering the option to share your trip data with the people you care about – a crucial factor when children or elderly people use self-driving vehicles.”

About our expert:

Warren comes to design after 20+ years building custom software and enterprise solutions. Production experience drives him to advocate for human interactions, applying technology and agile development practices to topics like autonomous vehicles, education, and collaboration. His goal is to make our world smarter, while keeping the technology invisible.

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Angelo Rychel
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