When it comes to autonomous vehicles, one of the biggest complaints is that they’ll take away the reactive, human elements of driving that see us making split-second decisions and not, y’know, immediately crashing into walls when the car is unleashed. It’s hard to relax and let some code control your vehicle. But Lexus has paired with two TED Fellows to design two different ways we might start relaxing into our autonomous cars.
The TED Fellows program provides a way for researchers across countless disciplines to receive support, build a community, and come up with some really cool ideas about how we can power our future. There are activists, artists, scientists, lawyers, cosmetologists, and more. And Lexus has paired up with fellows Greg Gage and Sarah Sandman, asking both to envision an autonomous future where humans will feel relaxed but connected in their cars.
We’ll start with Greg Gage’s ideas. Gage is a neuroscientist, engineer, and roboticist—all very important things when it comes to autonomous tech. A lot of different cars are integrating tech that can sense your facial expressions regarding your level of alertness, but Gage takes it a step further. He imagines that your car will be able to sense all your emotions and immediately take steps to impact it.
So, if you’re tired, it might recline the seat. If you’re pumped up, might throw on your pump-up playlist. The thinking is that you’ll be able to relax if your car is calling the shots based on your mood. It’s designed to be non-invasive, but I’m thinking some people might feel a little invaded if their car knows, like, everything about them.
You can listen to Gage talk about it more in depth here.
Sarah Sandman is coming at autonomy from a completely different direction. She’s an artist and designer, so her vision transforms an autonomous car into a glass box filled with swivel seats. The goal is to interact with the world around you—or even your loved ones—in a way that you currently can’t when you’re behind the wheel. It’s kind of like a moving table in a coffee shop; you can chat with the people in your own little sphere, or you can touch a button and communicate with the people outside your vehicle.
It’s a little more abstract than Gage’s vision, but Sandman is looking at autonomous cars as a way to forge connections with community, which will theoretically relax you by making you think less about the technology moving you from Point A to Point B and more about the people around you.
You can listen to Sandman chat more about that here.
Again—the kind of full autonomy these designs require is still a loooooooong way off. The technology is still very new, and no country has the infrastructure that could make full autonomy work. We’re not going to be letting our cars sense our heartbeat for quite some time.
But Lexus’s goal is to start easing the anxieties that already exist about our future possibilities, solving problems before they ever actually come up. If we have a better idea of what to expect when our cars start to develop more autonomous features, the whole anxiety problem will start to solve itself.