Coventry University researcher designs pandemic-proof car of the future

Coventry University researchers have designed a pandemic-proof car of the future.

Customers would be able to summon it by phone, create personal space inside and check cleanliness on a display panel before entering.  The doors are touch free and open automatically for the passenger to take a seat and inside it is 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. Prof. Herriots is investigating how the future of transport may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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.

“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. The world is a very different place and what recently seemed an appealing vision of the future now seems less attractive with our COVID-19 awareness.”

Professor Paul Herriotts, National Transport Design Centre

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 car design video on YouTube.

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.

Professor Herriotts added, “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.”