Author: Jarlath Sweeney Fleet Transportation Design Magazine
Swedish car brands Volvo and Polestar looked to future trends in researching and developing their latest concepts, namely the 360c and Precept, which were discussed at the Autostyle Design Competition Digital Edition Workshop series.
Design leaders from the two marques, Robin Page (Volvo) and Maximilan Missoni (Polestar) presented a full explanation of the creativity, ideas, style lines of each model, together with being driverless, emission free, topping with high-tech and above all, safe. During the course of the web based event, members of both brand’s design teams informed and explained the techniques and thought processes involved and had the opportunity to participate in the question and answer session held later.
Volvo Cars’ new 360c autonomous concept
With its new 360c concept car, Volvo Cars has uniquely demonstrated its vision for the future of autonomous travel with a totally new prototype that is electric, connected and safe.
“Autonomous vehicle concepts have a tendency to become a technology showcase instead of a vision of how people use it,” said Robin Page, Senior Vice-President of Design at Volvo Cars. “But Volvo is a human-centric brand. We focus on the daily lives of our customers and how we can make them better. The 360c is the next iteration of this approach.”
The basis of the 360c is zero emission car without a human driver. The concept capitalises on the freedom in design afforded by the absence of a steering wheel and a combustion engine, providing the ability to reimagine the traditional placement of passengers in rows of two or three.
The 360c presents four potential uses of autonomous driving vehicles – a sleeping environment, mobile office, living room and entertainment space – which all reimagine the way people travel. “The sleeping cabin allows the passengers to enjoy premium comfort and peaceful travel through the night and wake up refreshed at their destination,” Robin added.
The sleeping environment area is intriguing as Volvo Cars’ safety engineers also looked at the road ahead (literally) and into future of safety technology and how a different passenger positioning could influence safety. A special safety blanket included in the sleeping environment envisions a future restraining system that works just like the three-point safety belt, but is adjusted to people lying down while travelling.
The 360c also envisions a range of new potential customer groups for the company’s business and considers the possible implications for the future of city planning, infrastructure and modern society’s environmental footprint.
Precept from Polestar sports ingenious innovation
Precept, the car with which Polestar envisions its future, was created to showcase three key areas for the Swedish brand: sustainability, digital technology and design.
The name ‘Precept’ was chosen to emphasise the vehicle’s role in setting out Polestar’s intent as the contemporary electric performance brand. A precept is a manifesto of things to come; a declaration. The car signifies an important milestone for Polestar as a standalone brand within the Volvo car family (owned by the Chinese Geely Holding Group), describing a unique design philosophy that remains firmly embedded in Polestar’s brand values: pure, progressive and performance.
Maximilian Missoni, Head of Design at Polestar outlined the various aspects of the Precept project and along with Nahum Escobedo, the Exterior Design chief, are very pleased with the outcome. Along with their design teams, they enjoyed the freedom to explore, to do things differently. Certainly, starting with a clean sheet of paper helped, as there was no traditional ‘baggage’ carried over from previous models. There was none! In general, Maximilian said it was a great and exciting time to be a designer, especially at Polestar. He admitted that the typical Swedish characteristics such as simplicity, purity and care for the environment had to be adhere to. Which has been achieved and more, particularly from the inside. Its UX – User experience is exceptional. All features pertaining to achieve 100% safety.
Nahum explained his brief in creating the sleek design lines of the Precept’s exterior. The front wing, for example is integrated into the bonnet, which improves air flow by reducing turbulence over the rest of the body – important for increasing EV range, while the air ducts behind the front wheels allow air to exit the wheelhouses and contribute to a more streamlined flow around the side of the car.
As with recent trends, the two front doors open wide and that the rear doors are rear-hinged for easy access. Thanks to its long wheelbase which accommodates a high battery capacity for longer range distance, enables lots of interior space despite its low roof line. The absence of the rear window allows for the traditional rear roof beam to be moved further rearwards for an extended, single-volume glass roof and better head room – as well as a larger, deeper tailgate opening with a roof-mounted hinge. Full-width tail lights with vertical air blades complete the aerodynamic design, allowing for cleaner air flow off the vehicle surface.
On sustainability, the Precept interior shows how high-tech, sustainable materials used together in the right combination can create a new luxury design language. For instance, the Vegan interior has high levels of recycled content, while the composite material used reduces interior component weight by 50% with an 80% reduction in plastic. Other highlights include, that the seat covers are 3D-knitted from 100% recycled PET bottles in a single thread – made exactly to size with no waste or off-cuts.
On the UX experience, a large 15-inch digital interface dominates the central dash area, with proximity sensors adjusting to what is shown on the screen depending on where the user’s hand is placed – display brightness and screen content adjusts according to movements and the need for more or less information depending on what the user is doing. Then there is a 9-inch horizontal driver display that contains vital information and is linked to eye tracking, an ingenious innovation which monitors where the driver is looking and adjusts the way information is presented – smaller and more detailed when the driver is focused on the display, and larger, brighter, vital information when focused on the road. Safety is it’s forte.
In the Q&A session, topics addressed included advice to budding car designers, their work practices and acumen and working remotely during the Coronavirus lockdown periods. Further information with regard to design programmes underway can be found on Instagram #WeDesignVolvo and #PolestarDesignCommunity Jarlath Sweeney