At the 2013 LA Auto Show, global automotive parts supplier Faurecia has presented its vision for the near future of automotive interiors and seating, along with new lightweighting and design technologies that the company claims are ready for the road.
From instrument panels with gesture-based controls to interior structures made with 100 per cent natural materials, from 3D seating covers to seats that automatically respond to the driver’s health and awareness, Faurecia has displayed a number of concepts and new products to show what the approaching cycles of vehicle design might look like.
The centre-peice is Performance 2.0, a demonstrator exhibiting new ideas for design and surfacing, all planned for the C and D vehicle segments, the markets most favoured by mainstream consumers.
The demonstrator’s instrument panel, called Instrument Panel 2.0, features a slim design that incorporates high-tech systems. The latter includes a retractable head-up display (HUD), placed above the steering wheel, that offers a transparent view of information that is critical for the driver’s reference. Replacing conventional gauge clusters, the small projection module remains flat and hidden away when the car is parked, tilting up once the engine is started.
Another larger retractable screen is an 8-inch interactive touchscreen placed where an infotainment system might otherwise have been situated and is available for navigation as well as other functions. Below this central retractable screen, icons appear for interaction with air blowers and connections to infotainment features, which light up only when needed.
The slim instrument panel also suggests that the next wave of control technology will be simply a wave. A passenger can open the radial sliding glove box with merely a gesture. A wave of the hand activates the box, which rotates out and opens.
The Performance 2.0 air vents, rather than presenting the standard adjustable fins, are large, open, driver-oriented decorative vents positioned to the left, right and above the steering wheel, along with two defroster vents; a large central diffuse vent called SmartVent 2.0; and DecoVent, a decorative air vent on the passenger side.
The DecoVent displays graphics during the day and is backlighted at night. Functional decoration on the instrument panel is typified by a foil-covered top, along with DecoLight to add a lighting pattern at night. When the vehicle is not in use, DecoLight displays a black panel.
Faurecia’s automotive seating specialists have also developed a seat design fashioned using sport cover-carving techniques, rather than conventional cut-and-sew methods. In this new process, foam is applied to the back of a textile and then is pressed into place to create its shape and a seamless surface.
The seat covers are shaped using Faurecia’s proprietary Cover Carving Technology, which enables designers to break free from traditional automotive trimming processes. In terms of concavity, the cover face is shaped on a mold; the fabric is held in 3D by a foam layer, creating unconventional surfaces and smooth surface transitions. Secondly, marking lines are completely independent from tie downs and can have a progressive depth and very small radius. Finally, in terms of embossing, 3D surface effects can be created and positioned precisely on the surface of the cover.
As a further development, Faurecia has created a new solution with the Sculpted Light Panel, a lightweight back panel that enables designers to incorporate sharp marking lines, graphical elements and deep 3D shapes into the design of the back of front seats.
Materials-wise, natural fibres have been used throughout the interior wherever possible. An expansive area across the top of the centre and passenger side sections, for example, is covered with Ligneos, a real-wood material, with a natural-fibre-based carrier, that Faurecia developed to use over large areas of interior surfaces. Ligneos also forms the lining of the driver-side air vents. This area is bordered by a textile-covered carrier extending to the windshield. Even the inside of the glove box is all-natural; it is covered with cork.
Faurecia has recently been pursuing the development of a bio-based material using natural fibres that does not rely on oil as an ingredient. Unlike other injected materials in the market, NAFILean (Natural Fiber for Lean Injected Design) employs natural fibres that both reduce weight and allow for complex shapes and architectures. NAFILean consists of a natural hemp-based fibre with polypropylene for producing injected parts that save 20 to 25 percent in weight compared with standard injection-molding parts, says Faurecia.
However, a Faurecia project called BioMat advances the NAFILean process all the way to a mixture of completely natural substances, creating an injection material with 100 percent bio-based fibres and matrix alike. Last year, the company joined forces with Mitsubishi Chemicals to finalise development of a polybutylene succinate (PBS) for automotive applications. As a result, Faurecia has become the first automotive equipment supplier to mass produce a 100 percent bio-based plastic, with hemp-based fibres and a natural-substance matrix that replaces polypropylene plastic.
Faurecia anticipates BioMat will begin appearing in vehicles on the road as early as 2016.