Environmental concerns, changing demographics and a lust for innovation are just a few of the factors set to influence the future of automotive design. Chris Clements and Dr Samantha Porter assess the trends in detail.
The Toyota Prius was one of the first user-friendly gas/electric hybrid cars capable of delivering an impressive 60 miles per gallon in city driving. Other ‘eco’ technical advances have entered mainstream motoring, recently. Displacement on Demand (DoD) is seen in high performance, large engined cars such as the Chrysler 300C HEMI. Four out of the eight cylinders imperceptibly shut down when the car is cruising. Another alternative, introduced at the bottom end of the market is ‘stop-start’, appearing in the Citroen petrol engine and SensoDrive clutchless gearbox cuts out when you stop at traffic lights or in slow moving traffic, and re-starts when you take your foot off the brake. Alternative clean technologies are likely to continue to proliferate over the next few years as governments and manufacturers have increasing pressure placed upon them to reduce emissions, which will, in turn, impact on the styling of cars.
Increasingly, individuals want to purchase vehicles that reflect their lifestyles and their individuality. This is a trend that futurists argue is set to continue. This is manifest in the vehicles we are seeing on the road. For example, the new Mini has 76 free available (customisation) options for the customer and the average further spend on extras is over £2000. The Citroen C3 Pluriel offers a French lifestyle chic and the customer is able to choose between the cabriolet RV, the cabriolet, the open top, the panoramic and the hatchback versions.
Increased longevity, a greater number of older people holding driving licenses and escalating affluence are just some of the factors contributing to a rise in the number of older drivers. Both the interior and the exterior of the car will be affected by the accommodation of the older user. The automotive manufacturers have already realised the importance of this demographic and have begun to invest in it. For example, in 2000 Lear Corporations’ TransG interior concept was designed from the ‘inside-out’. A panel of consumers between the ages of 50 and 70 (mean age 65) was consulted throughout the design process. The powered seats swivel to meet the user and are electrically adjustable. Dashboard and controls are simple and uncluttered and formatted according to the ergonomics principles of usage, frequency and sequence of use. In the same year the Royal College of Art convened a conference, Moving On: The future of city transport where a key consideration for all forms of transport was the ageing population. Also Fiat launched its Autonomy programme in 1998, exploring the way in which new technologies and ergonomics can be applied effectively to meeting the mobility needs of older and disabled people. The intention was to integrate findings into commercial vehicle design and production. Much of Fiat’s research was manifest in Lancia’s Nea concept model shown in Paris in 2000.
The Disability Discrimination Act does not, at the moment, affect automotive design, although it impact upon public transport. Potentially, this could change in the future. Additionally, the notion of guided vehicles offers new opportunities to both the elderly and the disabled.
Find out more about the Disability Discrimination Act on the Department of Work and Pensions website