The advent of ride-hailing, ridesharing, and car-sharing services has caused an ongoing sea change in the mobility industry. The market value for ridesharing services alone is set to more than triple to $218 billion by 2025.
That shift in the way we get around will also require some major shifts in the way car interiors are designed. That’s according to Ernie Wilson, vice president of advanced development at Southfield-based Auria, a global supplier of automotive acoustic, thermal, aerodynamic, and fiber-based products.
“These kinds of markets will change the needs of the interiors,” Wilson says.
Ridesharing may take the form of carpooling in a third-party vehicle. Car-sharing requires ownership by either a private owner, who offers their car for others to use when they don’t need it; or a corporate owner, who may provide a vehicle for many employees to use in the course of a day. That means the cars will get a much heavier workout.
“Today, we use our car four percent of the time, but with (increased shared use) we will see a lot more (use per vehicle),” Wilson says.
He says that will require interiors to be constructed from more durable materials, such as floors that “stand up to added traffic into and out of a vehicle.”
Auria is already working on adapting to that change. The company recently debuted its Armorlite flooring system, which Wilson says is “anywhere from three to five times more durable than the best floor out there now.” Floors made with the new technology can be designed to look like a variety of surfaces including wood grain and carpet fiber – and they’re easier to clean than the carpet more typical of today’s vehicles.
Acoustics will also be important, especially as ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft – as well as private owners – invest more heavily in electric vehicles. While the sound of a combustion engine masks tire and wind noise, electric vehicles, which are quieter, do not. Wilson cites the importance of the articulation index, which measures speech intelligibility in a given noise environment.
“If you can’t hear, the satisfaction of that event will not be very good,” he says.
However, he notes, “today’s dishwashers are three times as quiet as those 10 years ago” – an evolution that can also be applied to the development of cabin interiors, using innovative trim and insulation materials.
Odor management is also important. Rental cars usually receive a thorough cleaning between customers, but that may not be the case for vehicles used by ride-hailing, ridesharing, or car-sharing services.
For instance, Wilson says, if a passenger carries a pizza, “two hours later it still smells like pizza.” He says these kinds of scenarios require products and solutions that will “minimize or eliminate that smell in the future.”
Affordability and generational differences will continue to fuel the trend towards shared mobility services. According to AAA, the average cost to own a vehicle is $8,800 a year. For many young people, using a shared vehicle is a more affordable and attractive prospect. What’s more, reaching the driving age as a rite of passage has lost its edge.
“It’s not as important to the generation that’s coming of age to get their driver’s license,” Wilson says.
Wilson says it takes a cycle of 11 to 12 years to “get rid of a group of vehicles,” so he anticipates autonomous vehicle owning and sharing to accelerate after 2030.
By then, he says, “technology will (have changed) the way we look (at) and access transportation, and what we do with it once we get into that vehicle.”
Photos courtesy of Auria.