Self-driving cars once only existed in futuristic science-fiction films, but as with other technologies that could previously only be dreamed of, it’s now becoming a reality. In honour of the recent legalization of self-driving cars in California, we asked car designer Chris Bangle, of Chris Bangle Associates S.R.L. for all the information.
At the moment, self-driving cars look much like every other car already on the road, with a computer taking the place of the human brain. Chris Bangle believes that by 2020 they will be a realistic option for market, but before that they’ll need to be streamlined. If, as he believes, self-driving cars become widely accepted by 2050, what will they look like? Will we recognise them as cars, or will they become a completely different form of transport?
One of the first areas for discussion is how people would actually use the vehicle. You imagine a car without a human driver to be a very different beast, particularly inside, however this isn’t necessarily the case. According to Bangle, seating could be reconfigured in a multitude of ways, possibly moving towards the internal design of a bus, but some other things may stay the same. Seatbelts would likely make an appearance, with all passengers expected to wear them just as they do now.
Of course, much of this depends on how far into the future we are looking. As vehicles move towards being self-driven, cars could be produced for use both with and without a human pilot. In this situation, car designers would be reluctant to remove anything needed for a person to drive for quite some time.
Communication between vehicles could possibly change beyond recognition. A car that is fully capable of driving itself with little to no input from a human, would be unlikely to use optical signals in the way they do now, according to Bangle. A computerized vehicle could make the use of communication designed for human drivers, such as brake lights and indicators, largely redundant. Bangle also suggests the technology utilized for the “invisible Mercedes” could become commonplace. It uses LED’s to camouflage itself, and Bangle argues that if humans aren’t driving, cars will be unlikely to crash into each other. If we don’t need to see them, we could remove them from the landscape completely.
People’s feelings towards cars and driving are changing all the time, with younger people more aware of the environment, and showing less interest in cars than their predecessors. Bangle suggests, self-driving vehicles will probably be regarded more as a driver-less taxi, which will probably lead consumers to want something different. Looks may be less important, once you lose the driving ‘experience’, cars could be regarded as vehicles to simply get from A to B.
One big questions that arises is, if we don’t control our vehicles, what makes them ‘ours’? The sense of ownership could change completely, making cars more of a practical option for travel rather than something used for enjoyment. Cars could become a new focus for advertising, just like the slogans we already see on the side of buses. Does this change in approach bother Bangle at all? No, he says the car industry needs “some new references” and “self-driving cars can do that. They’ll make us think again.”