Rethinking car interior design for the living room on wheels

Car makers predict that people who own self-driving cars might make extra money renting out rides to others without having to actually be in the car. Passengers, meanwhile, would benefit because rides could be presumably inexpensive, and readily available.

lighting designAt the same time, designers are working hard to rethink how our time will be spent in a car once we don’t have to actively drive it. Some of the concepts envision a future in which the passengers will pay little or no attention to the road at all. They call this the living room on wheels.

Those two ideas – that driverless vehicles will be shared, and that they will be designed for more for our comfort and entertainment rather than our control – beg the important questions. What will the interior look like, and how will it function?

In both scenarios, we think there will be a lot of glass and in places that aren’t necessarily windows.

The advance toward autonomous driving vehicles is proceeding at a rapid pace. Designers and automotive companies are beginning to offer renderings of what interiors will look like. Some concepts do away with steering wheels completely, and most are filled with touchscreens and interactive surfaces. Designers think passengers will use these interactive screens and surfaces to adjust the interior climate, listen to music, watch movies, and browse web content. In a shared environment, those touchscreens will need to be extremely durable. Glass offers scratch resistance and haptic responsiveness while at the same time maintaining the high quality appearance that designers want.

Because they serve multiple riders, cars will have the ability to remember regular passengers. The Volkswagen Sedric, for example, envisions a key that calls the car to your front door. This will make sure that you can use the car when you want it, even when renting one. When owners travel to other cities, they might rent other Sedrics. The key will hold a unique identifier that allows the rented Sedric to adjust the vehicle to the passenger’s preferred settings. Eye scans, facial recognition, or fingerprints might also be used to register passengers, and those sensors are likely to use glass.

Interior settings could include customize-able lighting colors and intensities, and a shared vehicle may allow for more than one interior setting – darker for those that want to watch movies or brighter for those who use their commuting time to get extra work done. The lighting in autonomous cars will likely be made of fiber optic cables and LEDs recessed into the ceiling or behind door panels allowing for different moods. Additionally, lighting can be used to assist passengers getting into and out of unfamiliar cars.

Car companies and designers are dreaming big, imagining interiors that will radically transform how people experience driving. If the “living room on wheels” is going to be shared, the components – from the screens we watch to the touch panels we use to choose the program – will need to be easy to clean, durable, and stylish.

Glass can make these dreams a reality.

February 27, 2018


Rina Della Vecchia
Marketing & Communications
SCHOTT North America, Inc.