15 March 2018

The passenger compartment of the future: what if the self-driving car

This is the first project for Pierre, a young ENSAM graduate, who joined the French automotive equipment manufacturer Faurecia in 2017 in order to develop the «passenger compartment of the future». A next generation passenger compartment that will be installed in all self-driving cars by 2022.

Big changes are expected with the arrival of selfdriving cars

The car seat has had to change considerably with the arrival of selfdriving cars. This has led to the development of new comfort features for well-being on board. Although its current design is mainly focussed on safety, new technology and previously unused materials will have to be added to it.

The project that I worked on focusses on the seat’s headrest. Nowadays, the headrest is purely a security feature which is not really ergonomic. In the selfdriving car of tomorrow, the passenger should be able to relax in his or her chair, even being able to sleep while the car is being driven. Therefore, this part of the seat has to be completely reinvented to make significant improvements in comfort by finding the correct balance between technical solutions, comfort, design and regulations. It is difficult to anticipate how regulations will change regarding self-driving cars.
The transition will be gradual, the main manufacturers are making progress in this area but the technologies still have to be perfected, and it will take time for the legislation to be changed.

The creation of a new product: a real challenge

I took my first steps into the working world as a Design Engineer. Working with a project manager, I took part in technical meetings with seat experts to design the solutions selected, using the CAO software Catia. The mechanisms are designed based on volumes, whereas the style or comfort aspects require work to be based on surfaces. Finally, I also managed the digital model and I supervised the production of several physical prototypes related to
the project.

It was not easy to start off with as the project took time to get going. But starting from scratch to create a new product, designing it, making models, all while dealing with the various constraints, and finally being able to touch it… that was really great! Even if the project was perplexing to start with: «You’re going to design a headrest», the work turned out to be really fascinating, and that’s the reason why I became an Engineer.