Pininfarina recently unveiled a concept car with a mission: to make the journey as pleasurable as the destination. Developed entirely using virtual reality technologies—and existing only in the digital world, for the moment—the Pininfarina Teorema concept is a bit of a thought experiment that explores concepts like a sense of community aboard. The high-tech vehicle reimagines the interior space so that occupants can appreciate the scenery through their travels.
Built on a modular, scalable electric skateboard chassis provided by Benteler, the fully autonomous Teorema concept does not have side doors; instead, the rear opens upward and forward for passenger loading. The futuristic vehicle can seat up to five passengers in free-standing chaise lounge-styled seats. Cutting-edge and autonomous, the Teorema continuously senses its surroundings and changes ambient lighting accordingly. For example, if it were driving near the Colosseum in Italy, it could adopt the landmark’s color.
The narrow cabin and widebody design make the low-slung Teorema concept stiffer and lighter. Occupants enter the car through the rear, with the center section serving as a walkway that illuminates to guide passengers to their seats. These innovative seats can fold flat and turn into a bench, creating a cocoon-like setting. The car also provides areas of privacy where passengers can isolate themselves to rest or watch some entertainment. For added privacy, smart rear glass can regulate the amount of light that enters from outside.
The Teorema features three drive modes: Autonomy, Drive, and Rest. These various modes reconfigure the seating arrangements, the interior ambient lighting, and the overall mood to match the passengers’ desires. Although the Teorema is a fully autonomous vehicle, the driver can also take control using a couple of joysticks. To help prevent the driver from having to take their eyes off the road for prolonged periods, “smart surfaces” are hidden under interior panels, revealing pop-up buttons with clear icons that only emerge when the driver waves a hand over them.
Pininfarina’s concept employs augmented reality by WayRay to support advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), navigation, and other features. The software renders content in real time seamlessly without delays and provides a more natural way of viewing information via virtual images that are sharp, vivid, and aligned with the real world. Unlike conventional cars, the Teorema does not have physical touchscreens and instead uses “intelligent” glass to display information.
The windshield and side glass acts as a 180-degree giant touchscreen and show essential data such as location, weather, and traffic at all times. Passengers can interact with the touch glass to surf the web, check email, and so forth. They can also share their findings with other passengers aboard when searching for restaurants, coffee shops, and points of interest. Furthermore, the car is always connected to tourism websites and can identify landmarks while traveling through different cities.
As a thought exercise, the Pininfarina Teorema concept is an interesting exploration of a lot of the themes we’ve seen in other autonomous concept cars—the car as a social space for relaxation, the benefits of augmented reality, the ability to dramatically change the form factor of the vehicle if human-controlled driving is only a secondary or occasional use case. But it’s nice that this is more than just an anonymous, purely functional pod, like some sort of autonomous appliance. Hopefully that trend continues in the future as autonomy matures.
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