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Autonomous CUV for Offroad Enthusiasts Latest Design Challenge

Autonomous CUV for Offroad Enthusiasts Latest Design Challenge

We’ve seen an awful lot of interiors for self-driving cars lately, so WardsAuto decided to up the ante in its latest design competition. We are challenging students to create an interior for a 2030 vehicle that drives itself on daily commutes but still can satisfy off-road driving enthusiasts on the weekend.

An autonomous car for driving enthusiasts may sound like an oxymoron, but we’re betting there will be a lot of consumers in 2030 who still like to drive, at least on weekends.

We’ve got some wiggle room. After all, we’re looking 15 years down the road, and these are super-talented young people. So we figured, what the heck, let’s go for something a little different. We are not asking for a flying car, just one that drives itself and doesn’t have four lounge chairs facing each other like so many recent concepts.

The student design competition is sponsored by IAC and Lear. It is WardsAuto’s sixth collaboration with Detroit’s prestigious College for Creative Studies, which has graduated many of the industry’s top designers. Previous competitions have included projects for a fullsize 2025 pickup truck interior and future family cars and CUVs.

The competition is part of the 2015 WardsAuto Interiors Conference, which takes place May 13 at Detroit’s Cobo Center. The final student designs will be on display at the conference and at the SAE International World Congress, which takes place April 21-23.

The idea is to envision a vehicle for the year 2030 that integrates its multiple roles in owners’ lives, from rolling office to off-roader.

The assignment is to design the interior of a CUV or SUV aimed at active professionals who want a self-driving car for daily commutes but also want to physically drive in the country on weekends. 

It must retain the same capabilities of today’s Jeeps, Range Rovers and others but also foresee new features consumers will want in 2030.    

We want students to picture the lifestyle of a young professional man or woman who works in a major city but likes to spend weekends in the country camping, playing sports or enjoying nature with family and friends.

These potential customers focus on work and socializing during their daily commute, not dealing with traffic. However, on weekends they want to enjoy driving in the country and taking occasional off-road adventures.

In 2030, we believe CUVs and SUVs will be as relevant to American life as they are now, but they must be designed to be very lightweight and space-efficient, acknowledging the strict emissions, safety and fuel-economy rules that will be in place.

Designs are expected to be based on the dimensions and brands of existing models and make use of recognizable brand design cues. 

To prepare for the project, WardsAuto kicks things off with a visit to the North American International Auto Show. Students and their instructor, Brian Stoeckel, a designer at General Motors, recently toured the show, stopping to investigate numerous vehicles from Jeeps and Land Rovers to the innovative BMW i3. (See related gallery: Student Designers Visit NAIAS).

The NAIAS visit is important because we want the designs to be anchored within realistic boundaries. Every interior needs to seem credible and be based on technologies and materials that are envisioned to be in production in 2030.

This means integrating the latest mobile devices, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.

Each interior also has to recognize that seats in CUVs and SUVs require more support and bolstering than ordinary cars to hold drivers and passengers in place on rough roads.

Cost and pricing have to be considerations, and designs need to acknowledge safety features and NHTSA requirements. We also want to see clever ideas to make vehicles safer, especially for children.

As in past years, the judges will be top designers from a variety of OEMs.

The competition finalists will be announced at the SAE World Congress, and the winners of the grand award and special awards from IAC and Lear will be announced at the WardsAuto Interiors Conference in May.

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