Lexus is reimagining the future of self-driving cars.
Although the future of autonomous cars is certainly exciting, much of what it will look like remains unknown. Will we still sit in the “driver’s” seat or will the interiors of new cars look more like a café? This is one of thquestions that Lexus is trying to answer.
The luxury carmaker partnered with two TED fellows to try and figure out what the future of self-driving vehicles will look like. Moreover, the project aims to lessen some fears about taking away the interactive part of driving.
Although true autonomous cars won’t be a reality for most consumers anytime soon, addressing these problems now will help make their adoption much smoother.
Aside from cost, the biggest barrier to autonomous cars is that consumers don’t trust them. That’s understandable. No one wants to feel out of control when their car is traveling down the highway at 70 mph or more.
TED fellows Greg Gage and Sarah Sandman were both asked to envision the future of self-driving cars. Although their approaches are drastically different, they share a common goal—keeping drivers comfortable and calm.
Interestingly, Gage came up with a system that adds even more autonomy to the car. Perhaps that is thanks to his background in robotics, neuroscience, and engineering. He envisions a future where autonomous vehicles respond to things on the road as well as the emotions of passengers.
For instance, it might detect that you’re feeling tired and automatically recline the seat. If you’re feeling hot, it could automatically adjust the air conditioner to keep you comfortable.
Non-invasiveness is at the core of the system, making it feel like you are one with the car. Although it could be a viable solution it doesn’t solve the problem of people feeling out of control in the driver’s seat.
Sandman took a different approach. Her vision for the future of self-driving cars looks more like something out of a sci-fi book than a car traveling the streets today.
She loosely based her vision on the Empire Builder Train, a cross-country railway with glass cars that allow passengers to enjoy the company of their friends while also taking in the passing sights.
Her vision reflects that. It centers around a self-driving car with swiveling seats that allow riders to change their point of view at any moment. The café-like atmosphere is complete with faux plants, a table, and even a digital fireplace.
She says, “The inside of the car becomes a destination… it could be a space for playing board games with friends or having breakfast with your family before dropping the kids off to school.”
The human-centric approach is certainly novel and would make it easier to forget that you’re in an autonomous car. Each trip may end up feeling more like a train ride and less like an out-of-control car ride.
Still, both Sandman’s and Gage’s visions remain in the realm of the future. For now, autonomous car manufacturers are focused on ensuring the safety of their systems. Only once safety is achieved can the industry begin to focus on things like comfort and enjoyment.