Brand design bosses tell Autocar its passenger-focused interiors are well suited to driverless cars
Sam Sheehan
28 November 2016

Volvo design bosses believe the company is well placed to be a world leader in autonomous car cabin design, due to the passenger-focused layout of its interiors.

Speaking exclusively to Autocar, Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo’s senior vice president of design, explained that while European rivals have focused on driver-centric cabins, Volvo has long prioritised overall passenger comfort.

“Not being a company that has a passion for power and driver focus means that we have spent more time exploring the passenger lounge area,” he said. “In the S90 Excellence [a three-seater model for China], we used a special centre console and took a seat out to explore what could you actually do with this space.”

To this end, Volvo has been conducting studies to better understand how to maximise well-being for all passengers for many years, and coincidentally, this knowledge is now relevant for autonomous car design. 

Volvo Chinese R&D centre will play key role in cabin design

“Now we see all these exercises have become elements in a big puddle and we were naturally researching in this area,” Ingenlath continued. “It shows that our way of looking into a car has naturally turned into how you use a car in the future.”

Robin Page, vice president of interior design at Volvo, said that the brand’s global approach to design, with its three design studios located in Sweden, America and China, would also help it to better adapt future models to local markets.

“We have a studio in California, and it’s noticed that Los Angeles as a car market is a driver for electronic development. China is more about rear passengers and luxury, while Europe is a bit special as it still focuses on the driver,” he explained.

Page said that while these markets all had slightly different demands for cars, electrification, autonomous technology and connectivity were the three most common shared focus areas.

“The tough part from our point [to meet these demands] is we have to add more feature content, entertainment and things that can entertain and put [passengers] into different situations when they’re not driving the cars,” continued Page.

He said that seats would, therefore, become an increasingly important part of cabin design. “The seats will be doing a lot more; if you want to move into a different position, how does the seat move you?”

Page referenced the Volvo Concept 26’s cabin, which experimented with adjustable seats that allowed the driver to lie down, offering a glimpse of Volvo’s future interiors.

“C26 was certainly not like a far into the future dream,” added Ingenlath. “It was something that explored the type of cabin in our next generation of cars. Will we see all the features in them? No. But we will see some of them? Yes.”

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28 November 2016
I really like the interiors of modern Volvo's so clicked the link. And what do I see? Four seats, a steering wheel and dashboard! Not exactly radical thinking. How about seats that can face each other with wireless control for when you may need to drive a bit around roadworks. Why have a dash - why not project onto the windows or just show the info on your phone? (I used to work for a major car company but left to join a tech company!)




28 November 2016
Why are they wasting time and money on this publicity seeking autonomous rubbish when they’re in desperate need of an EV within the next year or 2, a 3 cylinder petrol engine and a replacement sonner than they think for the flagging V40. They’re going to be caught out and it’ll cost them

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

28 November 2016
xxxx wrote:

Why are they wasting time and money on this publicity seeking autonomous rubbish when they’re in desperate need of an EV within the next year or 2, a 3 cylinder petrol engine and a replacement sonner than they think for the flagging V40. They’re going to be caught out and it’ll cost them

Dont worry, they are onto it, they have a perfectly acceptable hybrid system already on sale, they are looking into EV's, a 3 cylinder petrol is due next year, as is a replacement for the 60 series of cars, followed shortly after by an XC40 and a replacement for the 40 series. The plan is to have replaced their whole line up by 2019, leaving the then 5 year old second generation XC90 as their oldest model.

28 November 2016
When we go autonomous for the passengers from a design point of view I'm not clear what changes. Surely everything you can do for the passenger with an autonomous car can be done now. Why don't we have rear chairs to beds as standard and a big screen in the back? For the drive they just become a passenger. I think the move to EV from an interior design point of view is more significant as limiting hardware is changed and moved.

28 November 2016
This in response to xxxx...
Volvo is actually on path to exactly what you are suggesting; EV in 3 years, 3 cylinder petrol in a year or so, replacement for v40 with expansion of the 40 cluster.

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