General Motors has often said self-driving cars will require designers and engineers to rethink how the automobile as we know it is packaged. On Monday, GM supplier Magna unveiled its take on how to package a self-driving car.
The supplier showed off images of its reconfigurable cabin that allows passengers to take advantage of unused space. The cabin is supposed to represent a flexible space where passengers can move cargo, carry out work, relax, and even move freely while the car is in motion. As the images show, the cabin can face seats campfire style to “foster conversation,” unlike today’s cars which point all seats forward for safety and driving purposes.
The design came after Magna researched passenger preferences in the United States, Europe, and China. For long road trips, passengers preferred the campfire seating with a swivel function and four-way headrest support for those who want to doze off. The seats also include a massage function.
For car sharing, the seats can be configured to maximize space for personal belongings or packages, while a ride-sharing configuration can set the seats up like a conference table with three-wide seating. An app can also configure the interior for optimal space based on the needs of a particular trip. For example, a rider can program the cabin to maximize space on the left or right side for cargo, or take up more space for comfort.
Magna has a history in interior packaging, too. The supplier helped pioneer Chrysler’s Stow and Go seating for minivans in the early 2000s and was first to include its EZ Slide entry on a vehicle in North America with the GMC Acadia.
In the future, we’ll likely see more companies explore what they can do with the cabin as the car handles more of the driving functions. But, don’t expect self-driving cars to take over responsibilities overnight.