Detroit — As vice president of design for Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, Tim Shih spends his time researching major automotive and societal trends as well as collaborating and designing with car companies around the world.
As part of the automotive interior supplier's innovation process, Shih said they look at toward the future — typically two generations out.
Quality of life was one of the six megatrends Yanfeng identified in 2017.
"Basically, quality of life is the recognition that people are defining their happiness in different ways," he said Jan. 16 at the Plastics in Automotive conference in Detroit, organized by Plastics News. "It used to be about owning things, buying things, possessing things. Now, it's about experiences, values, sharing time with people who are important to you. The shift that we see globally in all different regions, we wanted to understand that better and then understand or look at its implications for scenarios such as car-sharing or ride-sharing or ownership."
Yanfeng, which has more than 110 locations in 20 countries but has global headquarters in China, Germany and the United States, interviewed 2,000 people and studied 28 dimensions to quality of life, including memories, trust, comfort, security, freedom, convenience and customization.
The questionnaire found three universal quality-of-life influencers: security, physical well-being and quality. Second-tier universal influencers were family/friends, freedom and mental well-being, followed by third-tier universal influencers of emotional connection and surprises/delights.
When broken down by subconscious influencers among different regions, respondents in Germany enjoy experiences and time alone and with family. In the U.S., respondents value purpose, convenience, comfort and status, while those in China desire convenience, environment, trust and cultural heritage.
Yangfeng also asked respondents about in-person activities vs. personal connections as well as alternative transportation (or shared mobility) vs. personal ownership (or possessing one's own car). The study was conducted because the way people use vehicles plays a major role in how they're designed for the future.
In terms of mobility, car-sharing was looked at by the European team in Germany, ride-sharing by the China team and ownership by the U.S.
"In Europe, we are seeing that cars are being pushed out of city centers, whether through legislation from the city or country. They're trying to force people to use shared mobility instead of personal ownership," said Shih, who is based in Shanghai. "We're seeing that progressing in the future. In a city center, you may have a geo-fenced area where they don't allow personally owned vehicles in, and you have to use public transport or shared mobility inside that space."
To that point, Shih shared a design mockup of an autonomous mobility "pod" that could be "deployed by municipalities or potentially sponsored by other brands or service providers," such as Amazon.
For ride-sharing, Shih then shared a concept autonomous vehicle that shows a woman doing yoga on her commute: "Increasing demands on time and space drive middle-class commuters to seek opportunities to be more efficient and effective — in business and personal pursuits. The vehicle interior should facilitate these activities, providing optimal surroundings for working, socializing and relaxing."
"To the topic of ownership," Shih said, "this was done out of the U.S. We wanted to help build emotional connections between passengers or owners in their vehicles, so we theorized that perhaps the interior … can evolve with the family as they have children and as they age. That way, over a long period of time, they build a connection with the vehicle."