Tesla Model S and Powerwall

As Car 1.0 Becomes Car 2.0, Car Design Blends into Home Design

Car design will soon become a new type of more home-like design, says Sam Livingstone.

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 traveled 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 traveling.

Tomorrow this will be quite different. Leaving our homes to travel in ‘Car 2.0’ will involve less punctuation — we will more seamlessly transition from home to car to other place. And this is 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 will travel in an autonomous car. Many automotive companies are working on autonomous car, as are a few (highly publicized) non-automotive companies, such as the famous autonomous prototype from Google.

Google car

Google self-driving prototype

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 2-10 years.

One of the major implications of driverless cars will be the user experience of traveling in a space that can behave more like the lounge of a home than a cockpit of a vehicle. Users will 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.

Another reason that tomorrow’s cars will be more part of our home than they are today is arguably closer to being realized than fully autonomous cars, if perhaps less exotic. While the vast majority of cars today are powered by fossil fuels, electricity will power most cars in the near future. And one of the major implications of electric cars will be the way that they will — very soon — work as part of the electrical backup grid when they are connected.

Most electric cars — even those shared — will spend most of their time connected to the grid, ostensibly charging their batteries, but sometimes also discharging their batteries to power the grid when it might need it. This will be informed by automated ‘reduced demand’ services of the type already being run by companies such as REstore with large energy users.

Tesla Model S and Powerwall

Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to store energy at a residential level for self-consumption of solar power generation, emergency backup power and load shifting

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 ecosystem that the home is also part of, working in symphony with the solar panels and battery (e.g. Tesla Powerwall) 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 our homes than ever before. Our cars will feel like part of our living system.

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’ feel that current cars have today. The combination of the literal and metaphorical closeness of our electric car to our home — and the way 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 today’s ‘Car 1.0’ are marked. We can already see how the future will change. Design now needs to realize it.


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