The car of the future could have a much more sanitary cabin.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has prompted countries around the world to begin to dream up a new "normal." As restaurants and other businesses begin to reopen and manufacturers like Kia look to resume production of hot sellers like the Kia Telluride, many companies and establishments are employing new practices to help maintain social distance, limiting the number of patrons allowed in at one time, seating diners at least six feet apart, and so on.
This total rethink of the way we do things could even affect passenger cars and their interiors, according to Kia design chief Karim Habib. He told the UK's CAR Magazine recently that he and his team are still weighing how to respond to the concerns raised by the global pandemic.
"We're going to have talks with psychologists and anthropologists to really understand how the public's psyche is going to be in future," Habib says. "There are things we've already been talking about: can we have anti-viral coatings in our interiors? Can you use temperature or ultraviolet light to sanitize surfaces? These are things that we will have to think about rather soon."
He concluded: "Covid-19 will very much influence the way we design our cars in future."
Designers have been considering the more widespread use of metals with proven antiviral properties, such as copper and silver, which could in theory be woven into fabrics or incorporated into interior surfaces.
At the same time, the disease could also present complications for automakers' visions regarding shared transportation, including car-share and ride-share systems. That's not an area in which Kia has traditionally led, but just earlier this year, the Korean automaker announced "Plan S" - a multi-year strategy to transition from gas-engine car sales to pure-electric propulsion and customized mobility solutions.
"The pandemic has changed the way we live," Habib says. "For the last few years we have been talking about a sharing economy, shared mobility and public transportation. We will have to see how that develops right now, because of social distancing."
He went on to say that Kia is still "trying to expand its understanding" of how the pandemic will influence cars in the future - "not only the types of vehicles we drive, but also how to design vehicles for shared mobility - or not, as the case may be."
So, then, whether a "shared mobility" approach remains a tenable option is yet to be seen. But as to whether you should expect your next Kia Sorento to feature antiviral touch surfaces or virucidal UV lamps, we imagine the answer is: probably.