IKEA's Autonomous Vehicle Concept Abandons Sleekness for Boxy Functionality

The furnishing giant's concept imagines an app-summoned fleet of "living rooms on wheels" delivering everything from groceries to health services.
September 22, 2018, 5am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Barry Barnes

According to a conceptual report by IKEA's think tank SPACE10, there's no need for autonomous vehicles to restrict themselves to sleek aerodynamics. Instead, "in a future where people no longer have to worry about driving, vehicle interiors can expand to a point where we no longer are designing cars, but rather small spaces," said IKEA’s Göran Nilsson. 

The concepts, Anne Quito writes, include "seven public service units that can be summoned to any location via an app (the prototypes can also be explored through an augmented reality app). They include a medical clinic, a farm stand, and a fully equipped mobile office [...] The project isn't a formal proposal but a provocation designed to inspire the public to imagine alternative uses for driverless vehicles."

While the model could be advantageous for people without easy access to services and amenities (i.e. those living in food deserts), commentators worry about taking things too far. For one thing, "fleets of private, commercial vehicles could further edge out citizens from public spaces." And then there's the wider worry that on-demand services will erode social cohesion by enabling entirely isolated, insular lifestyles.

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Published on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 in Quartz
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