Detroit — How do you want to feel?
That was the grand rhetorical question posed by Gaia Crippa, a London-based materials specialist and colors, materials & finishes designer at Chris Lefteri Design Ltd., during her Nov. 7 presentation at the Society of Plastics Engineers' 2017 Design in Plastics conference.
To clarify, how do you want to feel when you're inside the vehicle of the future — it'll be autonomous, by the way — and what role do materials play in evoking positive emotions in passengers?
"Cars are related to emotions and feelings," Crippa said. "We remember how we felt on our first date. We remember how we felt when our first child was born, and we exactly remember the model of our first car and how we felt when we bought our first car."
My first car was a late 1990s Chevrolet Cavalier in deep purple with a dark gray fabric interior. I can still recall how I felt after passing my driver's test at 16 years old: relief, for one, especially once the parallel parking section was successfully completed, and an appreciation for the unknown. When I bought the Cavalier, it didn't matter how much money I would have to spend on gas each week because the world — or metro Detroit, rather — had opened before me.
Owning that car meant I could pick up my best friend, insert a mixed CD into the upgraded center console and go anywhere I wanted — usually to a late-night diner for endless cups of coffee and conversation. The interior of my Cavalier was absolutely a reflection of who I was at that age.
But, as Crippa said in her presentation, when we think about the future of automotive there's a growing shift between how we look at the cars of yesterday and today, and how we will look at the cars of tomorrow.
"Today, cars are more about something that allow us to move from A to B," she said. "Well, in the future, we know that … [autonomous vehicles] will become a space where we can spend time in a more meaningful way."