Self-driving cars are just beginning to creep onto our highways. But in the future, autonomous vehicles may dominate the roads, freeing up their human passengers to engage in all sorts of other activities. For instance, you might want to check your email whilst a barista prepares your pumpkin spice latte. Wait, what?!
The notion that "driving" may be a very different experience in the near future hasn't yet had much impact on vehicle design. By and large, self-driving cars are being built in the image of the cars we use today. But Michael DiTullo, chief design officer over at Sound United, thinks we could be having a lot more fun imagining the future, which is why he's created a fantastic series of drawings depicting what the evolution of self-driving vehicles might look like.
As is often the case with new technologies, DiTullo suspects the first few generations of self-driving cars will look an awful lot like their human-driven predecessors, but that we may start seeing subtle, incremental changes. For instance, steering wheels could start getting smaller and more vestigial as they're used less, seats might start to trade functionality for comfort, speed and fuel gauges may give way to movie screens:
A few generations in, things start getting really interesting. DiTullo images that self-driving cars will integrate into the sharing economy to the point where renting a car by the hour or mile becomes commonplace. But by the time we get there, why should cars look like their 20th century ancestors at all? Why rent a cramped hatchback when you could take a Starbucks owned and operated vehicle out for a spin and sit in a lounge chair sipping overpriced coffee while you're stuck in traffic? Need to run an errand during your lunch hour? Grab a burrito car! Running out of date night ideas? Why not catch the latest summer action flick in an autonomous movie theatre? Drive-throughs are so old school, anyway.
Here's what DiTullo has to say on the matter:
I imagine an entire crop of small businesses existing solely on cars. The payment in exchange for the goods and services these businesses provide would pay for the car journey itself.
Ultimately, I think there is room for the coexistence of the entire experience spectrum, from fully automated transport, to completely manual analogue cars designed just for enjoyment. Personally, I want the best of both worlds, a self-driving experience to get me to and from work, and a vintage sports car to putz around in on the weekend and have a blast on the backroads. Hopefully, the traditional automotive driving experience won't be relegated to purely immersive VR experiences. Every trend has its counter trend.
Personally, I'm a bit concerned about the legal issues that are bound to crop up when your self-driving coffeeshop hits a pothole and you spill hot coffee all over yourself. But sign me up for that burrito car.
Images via Michael DiTullo and reproduced with permission. You can check out more of his work over at Polk.