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EV, autonomous tech to open up Toyota interior design

Space, the final frontier: Thanks to autonomous driving technologies, vehicle collisions could be relegated to the history books, meaning crumple-zone areas could be ditched in favour or roomier interiors.

Increased in-cabin space, ground-breaking designs expected from future Toyotas

Toyota logo15 May 2018

By TUNG NGUYEN

ELECTRIC and autonomous vehicles of the future will allow Toyota to experiment with innovative and ground-breaking in-cabin designs, according to the brand’s Calty Design Research chief designer specialising in interiors William Chergosky.
 
In Australia to discuss Toyota’s design process, Mr Chergosky – who contributed to the interior layouts of the new Camry, Toyota FT-1 concept and Lexus LC500 – said the burgeoning technologies are transforming the way a vehicle is engineered, allowing for new ways to approach in-cabin styling.
 
“The architecture of a vehicle is like a human, your heart is here, your lungs are here, right? So by the same token, cars have (been) shaped and equipped a certain way because here is the engine, here’s this, here’s that,” he said.
 
“When the rules completely change and you’re essentially sitting on the powerplant, batteries or motors that can be in-wheel, it’s a completely different equation.
 
“It allows you to basically rethink how you are going to lay out the interior to be more efficient, and there are all kinds of technical things that go with it as well.”
 
Mr Chergosky also penned the interior of the Concept-i, a fully autonomous showcar unveiled at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that features a futuristic cabin loaded with cutting-edge technologies including artificial intelligence and biometric monitoring.
 
While the Concept-i still features a traditional steering wheel for user input, Mr Chergosky said the increased safety of driverless cars will mean exterior design hard points such as crumple zones and crash protection areas will be eliminated in favour of more interior space. 
 
“Automotive interiors, because they are all based on traditional architecture, haven’t moved that tremendously in the last, you know, 50 years,” he said.
 
“Technology has allowed them to become more stylish – whatever you can imagine, you can create – but as we really move into that future, autonomous and more EV, I’m actually crazy excited.
 
“When you are given ultimate freedom, and say the cars theoretically don’t crash anymore, it opens up a world of potential styling options, especially on the interior if you think about it more architecturally.
 
“You can do anything.” 
 
Meanwhile, Calty Design Research president Kevin Hunter hinted that opening up the interior space would have a greater impact on commercial applications for light-commercial vehicles more than private use.
 
“Having small, high-efficiency motors that are tucked away towards the wheels opens up a lot of space on the interior,” he said.
 
“If we then add self-driving into that mix, say cars don’t crash, do we need traditional instrument panels anymore? That creates other opportunities for things, for people, for things that they want to carry, could have commercial applications as well.
 
“So I’m most excited about some electrified small motor thinking in our future cars, so maybe that means wheels aren’t bigger anymore, maybe that means wheels are smaller actually, they are more efficient, they make better space, so the whole notion of how we’re thinking about cars today could really change in the future.”
 
At this year’s CES, Toyota unveiled its e-Palette self-driving concept that can be used in a number of applications including moving cargo, ferrying people or delivering packages.
 
Mr Hunter reaffirmed the new design possibilities made feasible with electric and self-driving technologies, saying: “The possibilities, I think, are pretty cool.”

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