Once upon a time (not so long ago, really), car interiors were primarily analog and manual. Windows were rolled down and seats were adjusted by hand. Mirrors were simply rectangles of polished glass that showed what was behind you. Entertainment options were limited to an AM/FM radio and maybe a tape deck — if you didn't like what was playing, you counted license plates. Analog gauges indicated the speed, fuel level, and engine temperature (early digital dashboards emerged in the 1980s but faded out of designs within a decade). Trips were hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and could be uncomfortable and boring.
Modern infotainment systems, LCD screens, Bluetooth® connectivity, heated seats and steering wheels, heads-up displays, satellite navigation, luxurious creature comforts, downloadable performance upgrades and recall fixes, and automatic everything were merely a twinkle in car designers’ eyes. At the time, they seemed as futuristic as interstellar travel and teleportation.
Modern car interiors have evolved dramatically
Well, the future is coming at us fast. Modern cars have evolved dramatically from those of past decades. They stand to evolve even more in years to come. OEMs are finding that plush and electrified interiors — even in modestly-priced cars — are powerful differentiators in a crowded automotive marketplace.
As McKinsey noted in the introduction to its November 2021 report, “The Future of Interior in Automotive,”
Very soon, the cabin experience is expected to take the spotlight away from automotive elements that have traditionally dominated headlines, including engine performance, exterior design and powertrains. The rapidly evolving ACES megatrends — automation, connectivity, electrification, and shared services — will change the configuration of cars and allow vehicle occupants to enjoy new experiences during trips.
The easy-to-remember ACES acronym, mentioned above, was developed by the Center for Automotive Research to define the four key technological trends defining driving in the future.