Elon Musk: Autonomy Won't Dramatically Change Car Interior Design

Looks like we're stuck with regular car-shaped designs.

Flickr / jurvetson

Looking forward to ditching your old car and riding to work in a self-driving room on wheels? You may be out of luck, unfortunately, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Wednesday that he doesn’t think autonomous cars will look particularly different on the inside from today’s cars. Sadly, wild dreams of owning a self-driving bedroom may never come to fruition.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a dramatic change in the interior design,” Musk said during the company’s first-quarter 2017 earnings call. “There might be an option for club seating instead of everyone facing forward, but I wouldn’t call that radical, just turn the seats around.”

Instead of designing futuristic boxes on wheels, Tesla is working on bringing autonomous driving to its existing line of cars. Since October, the company has shipped vehicles with a range of sensors that it believes will eventually power full autonomy. The Hardware 2 platform, the official name for the system, comes with eight cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors.

Currently, the system is used to power the semi-autonomous Autopilot mode for driving along highways. Tesla wants to eventually enable cross-country autonomous driving by December this year through a software update to the car’s Nvidia Drive PX 2 computer.

“If it does turn out that we need to upgrade the computer power, it’s designed to be easy to upgrade, access through the glove box and make a put in a more powerful computer,” Musk said. “So, we don’t think it will be, but if it is, pretty easy to do.”

Elon Musk speaking in front of the Tesla Model X. Newer versions come with sensors intended for autonomous driving.

Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

In the grander scheme of things, Musk’s plan is one of the less outlandish ideas. A new report released Thursday by RethinkX claimed that autonomous electric vehicles would be much cheaper to run per mile than regular cars. Companies like Starbucks may produce autonomous cafés on wheels and give people rides to wherever they want to go free of charge. In return, Starbucks would get a captive audience of potential customers.

Other ideas push this even further. Jeffrey Tumlin, director of strategy at Nelson/Nygaard, told Inverse in November that autonomous vehicles could lead to self-driving brothels, called up from a smartphone, or an office space on wheels that moves around the city from place to place.

It’s not that Musk doesn’t believe car ownership might change. At last week’s TED conference, he said that there will be a shared autonomy fleet, so if people choose, they can share one car between several people. But people hoping that these shared Teslas will look like something out of a sci-fi film may be disappointed when they step into what looks like a regular car.

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