Today the way we use a car is like this: stop all the things we are doing; leave our homes and get into our car; drive somewhere; leave our car and get into the new place we have travelled to; resume doing things. Driving a car is like a punctuation to our day’s activities; for the periods of time we are in our cars we pause the activities we were doing - we stop our work or pleasure to drive, and we travel in a wheeled room vastly different to that of any space we spend time in when not travelling.
Tomorrow this will be quite different. Leaving our homes to travel in “Car 2.0” will be less of a punctuation - we will more seamlessly transition from home to car to other place. And this is for for two big reasons, one much talked about today, and one not talked about quite so much…
The first reason we will seamlessly move from home to car to destination is that soon many people we will travel in an autonomous car (see picture below of the currently most famous autonomous car prototype from Google). In the last few years driverless cars have emerged from their long held status as science fiction to become a wholly accepted part of our near future. Partially autonomous cars are here, fully autonomous are expected to be in public use within the next two-10 years. And one of the major implications of driverless cars will be the user experience of travelling in a space that can behave more like the lounge of a home than a cockpit of a vehicle: to be able to read, work at a desk, watch tv, have a drink with family or friends. In short; to do most of whatever you might do at home - and not even to have that sympathy for the driver that makes being a passenger of a car so different to being a passenger on a train or plane.
The other reason that tomorrow’s cars will be more part of our home than they are today is arguably closer to being realised that fully autonomous cars, if perhaps less exotic.
Whilst today the vast majority of cars are powered by fossil fuels, electricity will power most cars in the near term future. And one of the major implications of electric cars will be the way that (very soon) they will work as part of the back-up (electrical) grid when they are connected. Most electric cars, even those shared, will spend most of their time connected to the grid - ostensively charging their batteries, but sometimes also discharging their batteries to power the grid when it might need it, and as informed by automated ‘reduced demand’ services of the type already being run by companies such as REstore with large energy users.
For the many homes with an electric car that is parked off the road, the literal and metaphorical closeness of the car to the home as it charges will be greater than that of today’s conventional cars. It will be symbiotic with the energy eco-system that the home is also part of, working in symphony with the solar panels and battery (e.g. Tesla Powerwall - see picture above) and wider energy management of the building. As solar panels and batteries both continue to track long term and linear rates of increasing efficacy and reducing cost, and as the mechanisms to connect the thousands and then millions of electric cars to a country’s power grid become mature, so the car will assume a far closer connection with out homes than ever before. Our cars will feel like part of our living system, we will think of them more as if they are part of our homes. And so when we step into “Car 2.0” it will inherently be more like part of our home, we will expect it to feel more like a room of our home than the ‘cockpit of a machine’ that car still very much have today.
The combination of literal and metaphorical closeness of our electric car to our home, and the way being autonomous cars will enable us to seamlessly continue activities from home to car to work, will mean future cars will feel much more like part of our homes. The opportunities for the interior design of “Car 2.0” to be quite different to todays “Car 1.0” are marked. We can already see how the future will change, design now needs to realise it.
by Sam Livingstone