Multidisciplinary studio Seymourpowell has designed a concept for a "private shared" ride-hailing service, which features retractable partitions and air-purifying technology.
Focused on offering passengers more privacy in ride-sharing services, Seymourpowell's driverless Quarter Car concept has four seats that can be separated by adjustable partitions running through its two central axes.
This configuration allows the interior to be split into four individual and sellable spaces, enabling singular riders to have their own walled-off area.
Passengers travelling in a couple can also book seats face-to-face or next to one another, while those in groups can book the entire vehicle.
Instead of opting for a typically rounded, aerodynamic design, the Quarter Car has a cubic exterior shape in order to make the most of the interior space.
"With the onset of autonomous, connected, electric and shared mobility, it's time to start defining the first generation of vehicles designed specifically for mobility services," said Seymourpowell designer Jonny Culkin.
"Vehicles like Quarter Car will lead the way in defining a trend of 'private shared' vehicles; adaptable spaces that will improve business metrics and passenger experience in one hit," he added.
Riders who choose to book spaces in cars that are already partially full, which may involve waiting longer for pick-up, will be rewarded to ensure the occupancy rate is always high.
"A key issue within the digital ride hailing business model is the inefficiency generated from the number of empty seats during journeys," said Culkin.
"We have identified this as the 'Uber Pool' problem where, despite cost-based incentives, passengers are unwilling to share their journey with other users," he continued.
"It is a significant challenge for vehicle manufacturers and ride hailing services to overcome in order to unlock revenue and efficiency growth potential."
Seymourpowell wanted to alter the negative connotations that come with car travel by creating a vehicle that would positively impact the air quality in cities.
Both autonomous and fully electric, the Quarter Car aims to be more efficient and environmentally friendly by running on energy generated from sustainable sources in a bid to not release any tailpipe emissions.
It also uses smart air filtration and carbon capture technology to remove harmful pollutants from the air as it moves along, while simultaneously gathering live air quality data.
"During the initial design process of Quarter Car, we left no stone unturned when questioning the conventional wisdom of traditional vehicle design," said Richard Seale, lead automotive designer.
"As part of this process, we began to wonder whether a vehicle could in-fact positively contribute to the air quality
of the environment it operates in, rather than the contrary," he continued.
"We believe that if we are going to flood cities with new mobility solutions, in various ways each vehicle should do a little good for every mile travelled, collectively contributing to better living standards for all."
Culkin envisions the Quarter Car being adopted not just as an on-demand recreational ride-hailing service, but across a variety of sectors for different purposes.
This could include airport pick-up and drop-off to hoteliers building on their concierge services by offering bespoke city tours. Additionally, the cars could function as on-the-go, co-working spaces.
Features including digital transparent glazing displays, artificial intelligence and gestural interaction functions are designed to offer better user experience.
Depending on the service provider, passengers can also pay more to have ad-free journeys, while cheaper journeys will display tailored advertising.
This content could also be curated by the passenger, who could choose to pay for tailored digital experiences with entertainment, retail or educational content, such as information about famous landmarks.
Seymourpowell is one of several design brands envisioning the future of urban car-sharing services.
Layer has developed a concept for an autonomous ride-hailing platform that consists of two rows of eight modular seats set in S-shaped pairs that face opposite directions to maximise each individual's privacy.
The Joyn concept aims to "alleviate eco-guilt" by enabling travellers to avoid booking single passenger journeys without compromising on privacy.