Volkswagen Passat 2014.jpg

Driving a lot of empty seats

It’s not an uncommon thing to find yourself driving a car full of empty seats. Most car drivers do it most of the time, so we generally don’t tend to think about it very often.  
But then isn’t it odd that more than half of the car seats travelling on the road right now are empty? On average every car has only 1.6 occupants. Isn’t it a major waste of resource, and one that perhaps car designers might think about?  


In this age of ride-sharing, perhaps it's about time that passenger seats – even the entire interior architecture of a car – start to respond to the idea that its not just a family or bunch of friends having a journey together but different groups of strangers expediently sharing a ride? Perhaps even the seat itself should use its airbag occupancy sensors to recruit itself a ride!?

And, as a driver, when you do notice all of the empty seats around you, it can be a bit of a reminder of the people who are not keeping you company – a big ‘you’re on your lonesome’ statement! You get this particularly in a large MPV or SUV where there are lots of seats that are sometimes full of family members, but you don't get it so much in a van or two-seat sports car where at most there is only one empty seat. Maybe this is a secondary issue to the huge inefficiency of moving so many empty seats along the road network. But then it is a big visual reminder of how car drivers don’t have as much company with them as they might, and how seats are designed solely for their role of seating an occupant not for their more common role of empty in-car furniture. And when we do fold away the back seats of a car it’s more like bringing your garage or store room into your car not extending your living room. Couldn’t the multitude of seat functions extend such that they serve some useful role when not in use? To secure bags, to hold a jacket, to store a laptop, to place food on for the journey. Or perhaps even better – to fold away and create an indulgently expansive in-car living-room-like space to enjoy…(a bit like the Isuzu Zen concept once suggested)?