Global design consultancy IDEO has developed a series of concept vehicles that imagine how autonomous vehicles could transform the way we work, shop and travel (+ movie).
As part of its Future of Automobility project, IDEO produced three concepts exploring the potential of driverless vehicles, including on-demand delivery services and workplaces that commute to employees.
"We do quite a bit of more focused, next-generation work with our transportation clients that takes into account many of the constraints needed to provide mobility solutions in today's transportation context," IDEO partner and executive design director Danny Stillion told Dezeen. "These automobility concepts are a bit different."
"While not intended as literal vehicle concepts ready to ship, the range of concepts is intended to help us think about what life would be like with them in our lives, and to provoke further thinking about the kind of broader solutions we will have to work together on to solve our future mobility needs," he explained.
The first of the three concepts is a driverless car equipped with GPS, object sensing, lane-keeping and object avoidance systems, as well as route-sensing technology.
These technologies could enable the vehicle to travel at higher speeds while communicating with other cars, constantly making on-the-road adjustments for the benefit of its occupants and the network as a whole.
Removing the preconditions for human error could also allow vehicles to travel closer together, improving the aerodynamics of the fleet resulting in fuel savings.
IDEO's 21st Century Mules concept imagines a scenario where "everything from your new jeans to a hot lunch" are delivered almost instantly.
Equipped with the same technologies as the driverless cars, a delivery truck called Cody would use algorithms and GPS to plan the best routes for neighbourhood deliveries, as well as adjusting and responding to requests on the go.
"After receiving a notification that Cody has arrived, you'll simply walk to the curb, do a biometric scan, and receive your package," explained the designers. "No tips required."
Coexisting with traditional and on-demand delivery services, Cody could be used by individuals who want to post letters and packages.
Cody would also be used by depots and could organise products for other delivery trucks, as well as mark packages with handling instructions to guide robotic arms. IDEO said this could increase efficiency and "eliminate human error from the delivery process".
Operating 24 hours a day, Cody vehicles would only pause during off-peak hours to recharge, but future iterations could also incorporate wireless charging.
The final concept rethinks commuting by presenting an inverse scenario where working spaces travel to employees.
"WOW [Work on Wheels] pods might occupy a location between two offices, splitting travel times for both teams," said the designers. "Or it could be parked by a site-specific project, like a building under construction."
The interlocking cube-like offices on wheels could also present options for employers looking to provide "greater access to daylight and natural ventilation, as well as views and green space".
Each pod would be reconfigurable via a booking service to meet a company's specific needs, while autonomous support vehicles could provide on-demand services when and where required.
Car manufacturers are increasingly looking at the possibilities offered by self-driving vehicles, including Tesla who recently launched its Model SD electric car that could soon be "summoned" by owners to pick them up autonomously.
German manufacturing giant Mercedes-Benz recently unveiled a lorry that will be able to drive itself across Europe’s roads within the next ten years.