At the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA, leading voices from transportation discussed the future of personal mobility at the Future of the Automobile Conference. Sessions from industry insiders, including Henrik Fisker, VW’s Klaus Bischoff and futurist Rod Chong, provided insight to where the world of transportation, mobility and the city of LA itself is heading. Auto Futures’ Lynn Walford reports from LA.
“Los Angeles is ground zero for car culture. It’s a great place and a tremendous opportunity to see emerging technology at the Petersen Museum that is dedicated to preserving the history of the automobile,” says Stewart Reed, department chair, Transportation Design at ArtCenter College of Design. “We are at the crossroads of something exciting.”
In order to get ready for the great shift of transportation, education and design need to change – noted speakers at the event.
“For the future of automotive to succeed there needs to be more education in software architectures and big data,” says Kellen Pucher, director of strategic initiatives Smart Mobility, Panasonic.
“The design of cars in the future should look at what the user is doing. Users may want to experience a podcast, exercising machine, watch a video or engage in other layers of reality,” says Rod Chong, creative strategist, who wishes there was more passion in designing of mass transit not just “bland mass production.”
“Autonomous cars should have flexible interiors and designed for different types of entertainment so that you could do what you like,” adds Chong “Of course it’s got to be self-cleaning.”
Klaus Bischoff, head of design at Volkswagen, shared the history of his design journey and the latest innovations in VW design. Currently, he handles hundreds of car designs at the company. His love of design started with a hands-on approach while washing his mother’s VW Beetle. He noticed that cars have a personality.
“It’s not just about technology we create characters in the design. The headlights are not lights they are eyes,” says Bischoff.
Volkswagen is completely revamping its operations to go electric with the ID. family of vehicles to bring CO2-free mobility to the masses. He says Volkswagen cars contribute 1% of global mass warming annually while 300 cargo ships produce global warming that equals all the cars on the road.
The company is dedicating three factories to the changeover to 100% electric vehicles. Some models will have different battery ranges. Volkswagen has also invested in QuantumScape to develop solid-state batteries and other new technologies.
Data from automotive technology will play a great role in the future of transportation.
“What is needed is a universal system to unlock the data. We need to collaborate with the U.S. Department of Transportation. If we just had 5% or 10% of the data it would be extremely useful,” says Pucher. The data harvested from vehicles can be very useful. It can show when a car goes over a patch of ice—the information then can be given to other cars on the road to avoid the ice. Car data can also be used to locate potholes.
Alex Wellon, CEO MotorTrend Group led a discussion on car sharing services. He likens the new experiences with car sharing such as Turo to what Apple’s iTunes and Spotify did with music.
“Technology makes the process to access cars easy,” says Wellon.
People want to share their cars and play it forward which is what classic car owners are doing with Hagerty’s DriveShare platform. A 1969 Austin America, 1968 Ford Mustang and 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SL were available in the Petersen Museum parking lot to drive. These and other classic cars can be rented from private owners in Los Angeles through the DriveShare app with prices ranging from $225 to $395 a day.
Keynote speaker, McKeel Hagerty sees the current state of transportation as “a collision between the automobile and automobility.” He hopes to maintain the blending of the old and new whilst continuing the use Henry Ford advocated for driving cars— for enjoying great open spaces with your family.
Hagerty is known for insurance for classic cars. When asked about the trend of insurance included in the price of vehicles, he responded, “In the future insurance will be more like a warranty but some will still have to buy and pay for insurance.”
Cars continually are adding more features to enhance experiences.
During a user experience panel, Stewart Reed pointed out that cars are transforming as cell phones have.
“Just like at first- a cell phone was just a phone and now a phone is not a phone — a car is not just a car,” says Reed.
“Right now, consumers are looking at technology and its usefulness. ‘Is it worth my money and is it going to expand my experience?’” says Kristin Kolodge, director of Human Machine Interface (HMI) and Driver Interaction at J.D. Power.
The automotive user experience can be further expanded for memorable fun uses.
“Say you’re driving in a beautiful area such as Hawaii, with a spectacular view around you. You can save the 360-degree view from the cameras to share your memories with your friends. That would be tremendous,” says Sam Park, UX/UI Design senior manager at Nissan Research Center, Silicon Valley.
And another important theme besides electrification is environmental consciousness and sustainability. Henrik Fisker, who is currently working on a compact SUV for 2021, pointed out that automakers should be environmentally responsible.
“75% of the cobalt used for batteries is controlled by China,” which is why he is working with Caterpillar and is on the board of a U.S. cobalt mine so that cobalt can be mined through robotics. Fisker adds that he’s using vegan materials and wood from the California fires in his first Fisker vehicle.
“We are experiencing a revolution in design. It is an exciting time. People who buy electric vehicles are risk-takers who don’t want boring sedans” says Fisker.
“A great example of what happening in the world of transportation is what happened during the opening panel this morning,” muses Stewart Reed who noted Alex Roy (director of special operations at Argo AI and founder of the Human Driving Association) was a half an hour late for the opening panel discussion.
”He said he was late because he was waiting for a rideshare ride and if he had driven his own car he would have been here on time.”