Infiniti's EMERG-E concept was one of the design highlights at the recent Geneva motor show. The sleek show car — a plug-in hybrid — excelled in the glamour stakes.
"The Infiniti EMERG-E is our new exploratory challenge, fitting the brand's performance promise and expressing our new design direction," said Shiro Nakamura, the Senior VP and Chief Creative Officer at Infiniti, as he introduced the design study.
As one would expect of a designer, Nakamura-san is detail-focussed, pointing out to Aussie journalists attending the reveal of the car that its rear flanks were styled to mimic a woman's kimono, and the frontal styling was inspired by the "intense eyes" of a god. And encapsulating the two sides of the Infiniti brand image — luxury and sport — the interior of the EMERG-E is finished in a darker colour of trim on the driver's side, lighter on the passenger's side.
Subsequently, Nakamura-san outlined his view of future interior design. It wasn't about what will happen so much as what may happen, although the technology already exists; it's simply about the will to make it work and put it into production at an affordable price.
Taking his cue from the EMERG-E (pictured), he began by suggesting the concept car's rearward-looking cameras — in lieu of exterior mirrors — might become commonplace in future production cars. The cameras would enhance aerodynamic design and could eliminate blind spots as indeed current blind spot-monitoring cameras do now. According to the Infiniti executive, even the rear-vision mirror inside the car may become redundant. Reverse-facing cameras working full time could take the place of the mirror, displaying the scene behind the car for the driver to see what's going on. Nakamura-san argues that cameras are better than mirrors, because they can automatically adjust the aperture to allow for the glare from a car's headlights, ensuring the driver can still see the whole picture and not be blinded.
The way the driver interacts with the car could be improved in other ways too, says Nakamura-san. One suggestion offered was the interconnectivity afforded by smart phones. Imagine an iPhone app that will give you your speed at a glance. We can already integrate smart phones with a car's audio system wirelessly, but what's to stop the iPhone also providing the 'back end' for an onboard satellite navigation system?
According to the Infiniti exec, relying on smart phones to handle many of the comfort and convenience features in future car design has the potential to cut R&D costs considerably, making it an ideal solution for budget-brand models built down to a price. Once cradles and cabling were developed, they likely wouldn't change for years. Any changes to smart phone design would have to be backwards-compatible with previous designs of smart phone, which would presumably make them backwards-compatible with vehicle interfaces also — assuming there's any need for a non-wireless interface in the future.
But how would you get home if the smart phone wouldn't wake up from 'recovery mode'?