Will cars of the future be portable living spaces?

- Hyundai Motor recently unveiled plans for self-driving cars at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. These Connected Cars of the future will provide greater lifestyle convenience, comfort and enjoyment.

The car as a form of transport

The first steam-powered vehicle is said to have been built by Ferdinand Verbiest, a member of a Jesuit mission in China, around 1672 as a toy for the Chinese Emperor. Though his design couldn’t carry a driver, it served as a template for all future variations of the automobile. It wouldn’t be until the end of the 19th century that prototypes resembling something closer to the modern car started to be developed.

Verbiest's steam machine
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Verbiest)

From the steam wagons of the Victorian age, to the petrol-powered cars of the 20th century and the Hyundai IONIQ Electric, all cars share the same fundamental purpose as a means of transportation. With the advent of autonomous vehicles, that could be all about to change, as cars become an extension of one’s living and working space.

How autonomous cars will revolutionize the in-car experience

Autonomous driving will transform the look and feel of our vehicles, and make journeys far more convenient. Hyundai’s first self-driving car milestone was the introduction of the Highway Driving Assist system in the Hyundai Equus (a sedan for the Korean market), designed to maintain a safe distance from the car ahead and keep the vehicle within the lane. The company aims to make highly automated driving a fixture of cars across its range by 2020, and launch fully-automated vehicles in 2030.

Although car exteriors have evolved over the years, car interiors have remained very similar and retained the same main features: forward-facing seats, a steering wheel and pedals for acceleration and braking. Autonomous driving technology offers up the opportunity to revolutionize the look and feel of cars. As people won’t need to concentrate on driving, they will have more time for other activities, such as working, resting or watching a film. Looking far ahead to the future, it’s possible cars will feature 360-degree swivelling seats with individual touchscreen displays, making them ideal for hosting meetings while on the move.

Connected Car Interior

Smart House concept

Autonomous cars won’t just revolutionize driving, but our own homes and working environments too. At CES 2017, Hyundai Motor unveiled its Smart House technology through its “Mobility Vision” concept. This blurs the line between mobility and living and working spaces, making the car an essential part of our daily lives rather than simply a means of getting from A to B.

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Hyundai Motor’s Smart House places Connected Car technologies at the centre of the home. Rather than being stored in garages, future cars could shed the image of conventional vehicles by instead being “docked” to become integrated with our homes, before becoming a mobile living space when the owner needs to move around. This will combine the comfort, convenience and connectivity features of the car and the home into one space.

Hyundai's Smart Home concept

When docked with the Smart Home, Hyundai Motor’s mobility concept will perform useful functions and enhance the living environment; from acting as an air conditioner, to sharing its entertainment facilities by mirroring audio and visual elements to the home’s smart devices, and even come to the home-owner’s aid in situations that require it, such as a power cut, using its on-board fuel cell as a generator.

The current state of play

It is clear that highly-autonomous driving is still some way off, and many analysts don't expect fully self-driving cars to be widely adopted on our highways and roads until 2050. However, the future looks bright, and things are moving at a pace in this field regardless. In April 2016, EU transport ministers signed the Amsterdam Declaration, outlining the steps necessary for the development of self-driving technology in the EU, an important recognition of the relevant safety factors that need to be addressed when developing autonomous vehicles and integrating them on public roads.

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