Autonomous Shared Cars Will Require Different Interior Materials Because People are Slobs

I’m a member of ZipCar, which I love for the convenience. But one thing that always reminds you that you’re in a shared car is the state of the interiors. I’ve experienced the following in a ZipCar: Sticky steering wheels, candy wrappers and potato chip bags shoved into various orifices, stained seats, liquid stains on the dashboard, and–three times!–cigarette ashes on the dashboard/console/seating.

People are animals, and that they treat shared surfaces like shit shouldn’t be a surprise. On top of that these cars receive less cleaning between changeovers than an airplane interior. If self-driving Teslas and Ubers stop killing people and autonomous car-shares do become a thing, the materials inside them will probably be different than what’s in today’s non-autonomous cars.

At a recent future materials conference hosted by auto industry media company Wards Auto, experts drawn from the automotive supply industry revealed their awareness of this fact.

A division of Continental, Benecke-Hornschuch focuses on hard and soft materials such as artificial leather and woodgrain and curved touchscreens for the auto industry. On the safety front, Benecke-Hornschuch has developed for instrument panels a series of soft-touch textile variants, such as Acella and Xpreshn, that are lightweight, durable, cleanable, sewable and require no scoring for airbag deployments, [Vice President of R&D Erhard] Barho says.


… Autonomous cars and taxis could be shared by dozens of people every day, which means flooring and other materials will need to be more durable, while also being stylish and able to muffle noise.

[Supplier Auria Solutions] is preparing to launch a new product, Armorlite, a heavy-duty industrial material that can be used for flooring and patterned to look like – among other things – carbon fiber, wood planks, marble, camouflage and diamond plating.


“Whatever you can print, we can do it,” Allison says. In Taber abrasion testing, conventional non-woven and tufted automotive carpet lasts about 2,000 cycles. In the same testing, he says Armorlite can endure 15,000 abrasion cycles.

Developing new materials like these is expensive and resource-intensive. Who’d have thought the sector would be driven by human slovenliness?

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