PICTURE OF THE WEEK – Coventry University researcher designs pandemic-proof vehicle of the future


Say hello to the pandemic-proof vehicle of the future as imagined by Coventry University researchers.

You can summon it by phone, create your own personal space inside and even check its cleanliness via a special display panel before you enter. The doors are touch free and open automatically for the passenger to take a seat in the clean interior and inside it’s all kept clean through regular UV light treatment between journeys.

The futuristic design is the brainchild of Paul Herriotts, Professor of Transport Design at the National Transport Design Centre (NTDC) and the in-house design team at Coventry University. “It’s only very recently that the future of transport seemed to be moving from personal transport to shared mobility, whether delivered by a scooter or cycle scheme or more futuristically by autonomous pods providing an on-demand service. But the world is now in a very different place and what recently seemed an appealing vision of the future now seems less attractive with our COVID-19 awareness,” Professor Herriotts said.

Professor Herriotts specialises in applied research to better understand the needs of drivers and passengers with the aim of guiding future design based on this knowledge. Key to the approach of the NTDC is the concept of ‘User-Centred Design’. This has been applied to answer the key question: “How can we design tomorrow’s transport to respond to people’s worries and concerns about COVID-19? The NTDC’s in-house design team has worked to propose new designs that are based on users’ requirements to “provide a transport solution that people can not only trust, but enjoy.”

The vehicle proposed by the NTDC has a number of features that will appeal to those with COVID-19 concerns:

Managing shared space

  • The importance of space has been stressed to the public in official communications relating to social distancing. It was therefore decided to propose a configurable vehicle interior that provides occupants with their own personal space, even when in a shared vehicle. This is achieved via folding and sliding panels inspired by Shoji screens in Japanese homes.
  • The user summons the vehicle via their own phone or device and can configure the interior before it arrives, so that each occupant has their own space.

Maintaining cleanliness

  • As the vehicle approaches, it displays its state of cleanliness via a clear message on an exterior display panel, so the user knows it is clean and has confidence to enter.
  • The doors are touch free and open automatically for the passenger to take a seat in the clean interior.
  • The vehicle interior is kept clean through regular UV light treatment between journeys.
  • The seats are designed without stitching or complex surfaces, so they are easy to keep clean and hygienic.
  • Some materials have anti-viral properties, so copper has been chosen to provide a handrail surface that stays clean and gives people confidence to use it.
  • The vehicle has fresh external air available if desired.
  • With a nod to the future, micro robots are proposed that are continually keeping the internal surfaces clean.

Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LaviW5Gg-4&feature=youtu.be

Professor Herriotts notes: “It will be interesting to see which of these design features enter mainstream vehicle design; if manufacturers and transport planners wish to gain passenger trust and satisfaction, research will be needed to better understand these issues and to evaluate these potential solutions.”

The National Transport Design Centre has state-of-the-art facilities and has a successful track record of industry and academic collaboration to solve the greatest issues impacting the future of transport design. To find out more, please visit the NTDC website. The NTDC is part of the Institute for Future Transport and Cities (IFTC) at Coventry University. The IFTC’s broad range of capabilities are being utilised to support the implementation of safe and sustainable transport solutions fit for the cities of the future.

Ford “New Norm Mobility Award”

The COVID-19 crisis has presented new challenges for mobility, with social distancing impacting public transportation, the flow of traffic being affected by more deliveries, and increasing concerns regarding personal health and well-being.

Now, a transport design graduate from Staffordshire University has developed a unique solution that could help people –particularly those with restricted mobility – get around safely and securely while also adhering to social distancing.

The “muvone” concept, developed by Marius Lochner, has won the Ford “New Norm Mobility Award”. This challenged design graduates to develop mobility concepts, ideas and solutions that address the new scenarios presented by COVID-19. As a self-driving taxi for one, the “muvone” concept puts the priority on secure individual mobility, enabling people to travel where and when they want in comfort.

“The COVID-19 crisis has greatly influenced our lives, changing the way people and goods move, and creating a ‘new normal’ for everyone,” said Chris Hamilton, chief designer, Ford of Europe. “This requires new ideas for apps, features, designs and mobility, at a time when the vehicle is a preferred private space and personal health is more important than ever.”

The “muvone” concept features a minimalist interior with flat surfaces and easy-to-clean materials so the vehicle can be disinfected between journeys. Designed to enable greater social inclusion at a time when disabled people need it most, the ease of accessibility makes “muvone” highly suitable for senior citizens and people with restricted mobility.

The award is part of the “New Designers Awards” – the largest design graduate show in the U.K. – open to students graduating in design. This year, the show was held virtually. For his winning concept, Lochner receives £1,000 (€1,120), plus a semester of mentoring from Ford of Europe chief designers Ernst Reim and Sonja Vandenberk, who were part of the judging panel along with Hamilton and Amko Leenarts, Ford’s European director of Design.

The award was run in partnership with Top Gear Magazine. Charlie Turner, editorial director of Top Gear, was part of the judging panel and gave detailed feedback on all the design proposals.

“The breadth and creativity shown in the entries for this challenge was deeply impressive and articulated the true depth of next-generation talent coming through the education system. However, it didn’t make picking a winner easy at all,” said Turner.

As a smart vehicle for a smart world – one that puts the focus on the privacy and security of the individual – “muvone” sits very closely with Ford’s human-centric approach to design. The concept’s welcoming design language, thoughtful branding and suitability for use with current urban infrastructure helped elevate it above the other entries.

Runner-up in the award was HALO Project, an idea for an app that helps users make travel choices and choose routes based on personal safety, rather than the fastest or shortest journey. Other entries included concepts for micro-mobility such as electric scooters and ride-on devices, and also for larger vehicles, such as an electric truck, a driverless chauffer vehicle, and a vehicle that could be transformed from a sports car to a truck at the push of a button.