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Giddyup Call for Expediting Autonomous-Car Development

Executive Summary

Adient’s advanced-development director offers guidelines for the industry effort of creating autonomous vehicles that will make today’s cars look Jurassic.

DETROIT – Horseless carriages debuted 130 years ago, but it took five decades after that before cars as we know them came about, says Nick Petouhoff, executive director-advanced development for automotive seating supplier Adient.

It shouldn’t take so long for the auto industry to get autonomous vehicles right, he says. “We want to speed the development of vehicle interiors of the future.”

Autonomous-vehicle product development puts the auto industry at “a big-bang moment,” Petouhoff says. Can we learn from history? He thinks so. “Never underestimate the wisdom of the past’s power to influence the future.”

His futuristic work at Adient sounds tricky. It involves not only defining unmet needs, but also trying to figure out “unknown needs of the future.”

Occupant safety will remain a high priority as the world moves from driven to driverless cars. In the latter, occupants will be able to readily rotate positions, lounge and even sleep, making conventional safety-restraint systems inoperative.

“We have to reconceive how to keep occupants safe,” Petouhoff says at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ 2018 World Congress Experience here, where he makes a presentation entitled “Designing Interiors in an Autonomous-Vehicle Future.”

If some attendees thought he would share images of future stuff Adient is working on, they were disappointed. Instead, Petouhoff offers guidelines for the industry effort of creating tomorrow’s vehicles that will make today’s look Jurassic.

Among his tips:

  • Form full partnerships without worrying about who gets the credit. “Those partnerships should be long-term and not taken lightly.”
  • Boldly define future needs. “Don’t let our future biases (such as seating configurations in today’s cars) affect our work.”
  • Become a learning organization first. Petouhoff says Adient has transformed itself into that.


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