Autonomous driving technology and electrification have the potential to drastically change how cars are created and Toyota’s new design chief has revealed two possible scenarios.
In an interview with Reuters, Simon Humphries said he could see a future where cars are transformed into generic boxes or ultra-luxurious vehicles designed for the super rich. As he explained, the combination of autonomous driving technology and electric powertrains could eliminate the need for individuals to own cars.
In essence, customers could use their smartphone to order a ride and have an autonomous EV pick them up and take them to their destination. The rich, on the other hand, could demand ultra-luxurious transport pods that hearken back to the age of custom railroad coaches. As Humphries stated, “There will be an emotional solution and a practical solution. So maybe the story is that the middle ground is increasingly going to disappear.”
Toyota hinted at this possibility earlier this year when they unveiled the e-Palette concept. The concept was essentially a box on wheels with an open interior that could be customized to meet the needs of its owner. Toyota envisioned the concept could be used for everything from delivering packages and pizza to transporting people as part of a ride-hailing service.
There’s no word on what the future holds but Humphries noted “Everything in a car, from a design point of view, is based on a 100-year old package – engine in the front and a driver holding a steering wheel behind.” He went on to say once people no longer have to drive, a whole world of possibilities open up.