Car interiors mostly suck. There are a few though that give me hope that the future of cars is one driven by user experience, comfort, and entertainment. Here’s a list of some of those.
The way we use our cars has changed over the past hundred years. In their early years cars were a symbol of freedom and mobility. Although they still are a symbol of mobility, we don’t have the freedom to “drive” quite like we used to. We spend most of the time sitting in traffic. In the past manufacturers have designed cars from the outside in, focusing on the drivetrain, the specs, the exterior, and then the interior. Now manufacturers are changing their tune, they’re beginning to understand that the user experience of driving is mostly about how you feel inside the car. There have been a lot of terrible car interiors, but lately there are a few that have given me hope, or excitement for the future of car interiors.
I’ve organized this list in order of most familiar, to most futuristic.
This list does include some concepts that are not production vehicles just yet.
When Honda revealed what was then called the “Urban EV Concept” in 2019 I was excited. This was a return of a true good looking hatchback. What made it more compelling was the beautifully designed interior. Fumihiro Yaguchi, the interior designer, in an interview said his inspiration was a living room. The goal was to create a space that you’d want to relax and spend time in. I think they’ve accomplished this. It looks and feels like a modern Japanese apartment with the woodgrain accents on the dashboard and console, a modern screen that extends all the way to the passengers seat.
The Polestar Precept revealed earlier this year is one of the most intentionally designed cars of the decade. Among many of its future-forward features is the interior. Starting with the actual seats, Polestar has developed 4 recycled materials to craft a luxurious interior. The first is what they’re naming “3D-Knit” which is made from 100% recycled PET bottles. This recycling technique isn’t new technology, but it is the first time it has been used in a car. The second is using thrown away fishing nets to create recycled Nylon 6. Third is recycled cork, and fourth are “woven flax fibres of Bcomp, with their innovative powerRibs™ material forming the rear seat panels”.
Polestar has also worked hard to create an infotainment system that is actually useful. Polestar (unlike many other manufacturers) has realized that drivers like their phone interfaces more than their car interfaces. So why not mirror, or extend that experience? That’s what they’ve done. Working with Google, Polestar created an Android powered infotainment system that allows you to seamlessly control car settings from all your devices.
Does anyone use any other navigation system other than Google Maps? No. So it makes sense that’s what should be in your car. The Precept uses Google navigation with added ADAS (advanced driver- assistance systems) between the two it seems that we may actually see a functioning navigation system in a car for once.
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Canoo’s approach is different from other car manufacturers. Their goal is to create inviting living spaces that happen to be cars as well. They’ve also recognized that the user experience of a phone is much better than 99% of infotainment systems. So what they’ve done is built a dashboard that is a dock for your phone. When you plug in your phone, with the Canoo app installed, it pulls up your personal profile and acts as your infotainment system for the vehicle.
They’ve also opened up the front of the car adding a window just above your feet. The cabin feels more reminiscent to a private jet than a minivan. One New York Times article says “The front seats are essentially reversible. When you slide the front seat forward and fold down its rear-facing option — as you would deploy an airplane jump seat — the entire cabin turns into a hangout space.”
The first supercar to make the list, the Gemera was a big deal at the non-existent Geneva Motor Show this year. The Gemera was Koenigsegg’s first attempt at a four seater supercar. They seem to have succeeded. Although a little indulgent, this is the closest we may get to feeling like we’re flying the most luxurious version of an X-wing from Star Wars.
The four-seater supercar has Wifi connectivity in the cabin for your iPad. Separate controls for volume, and air conditioning for rear passengers. The fancy looking screens up front use a similar interface as the Jesko. The Gemera has added touch screen controls right on the steering wheel that are haptic to give you actual feedback when you touch them.
Sony Vision S
Albeit strange, Sony is making a car. It makes sense that a company that makes entertainment products would make a car focused on a good interior experience. What Sony has stated is their goal with this vehicle is to make an immersive entertainment experience in the car. They’ve included 33 individual speakers that supply what they call 360 Reality Audio. It also features a huge panoramic screen on the dashboard, which typically I’m not usually for. I think it can definitely be excessive, and end up having a negative user experience. But what the Vision S seems to offer is a well organized media experience that sits in the middle of the screen with added control for the passenger.
The Renault Morphoz is a transformer. In this car’s flashy concept video you can watch the car morph to meet the needs of different users. The interior is strikingly yellow, and looks very Eames inspired (in a good way). The steering wheel takes on a new but familiar shape. The dashboard sort of nests around the steering wheel and expands down to the console. In another shot from the video you can see youths playing games on a tablet that’s integrated into the back console.
I can’t say much about the exterior of this car, because I’m not in love but that’s not what this list is about. The Fiat Centoventi is Fiat’s concept of a fully customizable small crossover. It’s the Fiat Panda, only futuristic, electric, and customizable. It’s sort of like when the infamous Nissan Juke was branded to be the car for eccentric, zany, people. The interior though, looks pretty good. It’s the definition of minimal, a pegboard looking dash allows you to attach a myriad of different add ons from a cup holder, to a speaker. The accelerator and brake are these little plus and minus buttons. It’s kinda fun.
Welcome to the year 2050. The Lexus LF-30 catches my attention because it begins to break some of the typical design conventions we are used to. A 180 degree dashboard for the driver that acts as an HUD with a blue monochromatic glow. It also has this big separating column in between driver and passenger. The passenger also gets their own screen and entertainment experience.
The flashy concept video shows a bunch of fancy looking people using gesture controls all over the car. A woman sitting in the backseat taps her magic wristband that’s apparently connected to the car to the center console and waves her finger at the glass above to control… something? And the driver, who isn’t even driving waves his two fingers to take control of the car. It’s all really unrealistic but if it even gets remotely close, I’d be interested to try this setup that looks like it was dreamed up by one of the concept artists for Avatar.