Tomorrow’s mobility brings the promise of unimagined possibilities for car interior design. Michael Mauer, head of Group Design at Volkswagen AG, explains the secret of this great new freedom – and shares some visions of the future.
In the not too distant future, electric drives and highly intelligent driver assistance systems will be organizing driving, navigation, and even optimal traffic flows for us. This will not only make traveling greener, less stressful and more safe. It is also, for us designers, nothing short of truly revolutionary. So far, we have had to work within the boundaries of technology. Now, we are being given a technology that opens up entirely new possibilities.
Until now, the car interior has largely been determined by exterior design. But all of a sudden, it is being turned into a more or less blank canvas. And that also means that, in the future, we can design cars from the inside out.
The Volkswagen Group is working on this future with tremendous energy and enthusiasm. Group Design is one driving force. We will be making full and very creative use of this technology and all its possibilities. The streetscape of the future will be even more diverse. More colorful. More emotional.
But why not see for yourself? I have selected some of our latest designs, and I would like to describe these to you in this chapter.
“In the near future, traveling will become incredibly relaxed. You board this campmobil in the evening, enjoy a meal together, get a good night’s rest, and are woken the next morning when you reach your destination, happy and relaxed in time for breakfast.”
“If you don’t need to concentrate on driving, you have so much more time for yourself. The driver becomes the passenger, the car becomes a second home. Or, as in this example, a workout area.”
“We’re giving a lot of thought to how a vehicle for young families might look in the future. For example, why shouldn’t a child sit in the front? That’s unthinkable today. In the box seat, in front of the parents, with the best view of what’s going on outside? That would be completely safe as the car would be self-driven, so there would be no risk of accident.”
“If the engine and the transmission, the fuel tank and the exhaust system are superfluous, then we designers have unbelievable creative possibilities. Shared mobility brings unprecedented leisure potential, creating an entire universe of new ideas. Just imagine – you could decide on the spur of the moment to make your journey to the office in a Viennese café, a pizzeria or an Italian bar. That sounds a bit utopian, but will soon become part of everyday life.”
“The outer skin of the car of the future will be a 360° screen, ready for all kinds of adventure. When your child gets bored, the windows are transformed into an aquarium, or passing cars become lifelike dinosaurs – thanks to augmented reality.”
“Up to now, safety criteria have restricted our creativity. Windscreen, a pillar, crumple zone, fixed seats, safety belts – all of that becomes obsolete in the future. Glass compartments then only need to provide protection against wind, rain, heat or cold. The seating positions enable eye contact with other passengers.”
“When cars were first invented, each one was a unique specimen. And we’re heading back that way again now. For instance, we can customize seating to suit our specific requirements. Modular systems mean flexible seating design – depending on the number of passengers, the situation and personal preferences. All things considered, what is an electric car after all? Basically it’s a skateboard with a battery in the middle, a compact drive at the front, and four wheels at the sides. We can work with that, with a totally new sense of freedom.”
Michael Mauer, 55
studied car design at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences from 1982 to 1986. Following posts at Mercedes-Benz and Saab, he was appointed Chief Designer at Porsche AG in 2004. He became Head of Group Design at Volkswagen AG at the end of 2015.