(KPIX 5) — One of the world’s largest automotive part manufacturers says self-driving cars are fueling a design revolution that will dramatically alter how the inside of a vehicle looks and works in the future.
“The experience inside is what really makes you say, ‘Wow, I liked this ride or it was convenient or I could work.’ And we think that’s where the opportunity lies,” said Yanfeng Vice President of Research and Design Tim Shih.
The Chinese company provided a demonstration of its prototype, XIM 20, short for Experience in Motion 2020.
Shih says freeing the driver from the responsibility of actually operating the vehicle opens to the door to a host of design changes on the inside of the car. For starters, the front seats rotate 180 degrees — either facing forward and the road or rotated to face the other passengers in the car.
The company has stocked its prototype with a number of other neat design features like an interactive LED monitor embedded on the inside of the roof. The car also feature cupholders that automatically lower the drink a few inches into the dashboard to prevent it from toppling over when stopping.
“We think there’s a huge opportunity inside to create something unique,” Shih said. “And we think the real difference maker will be the experience you have inside the space. Because obviously, you’re not driving anymore.”
The company has U.S. offices in Michigan and in the Silicon Valley. It unveiled an early prototype in the Bay Area two years ago. That earlier model still hemmed closely to the basic blueprint of a traditional car but offered a hint of things to come with a foldaway steering wheel.
The company is still in the prototype phase of development but hopes to partner with autonomous carmakers in the not-too-distant future.