Emotional relationships can not be sacrificed for the sake of robots, Peugeot’s Laurent Blanchet told Paul Myles

Passion for cars goes beyond technology for French manufacturer Peugeot as it enters the world of designing the driverless vehicle of the future.

It’s message was clear with the unveiling of its autonomous concept Instinct at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

The vehicle boasts a raft of new technology but, chiefly in the eyes of Peugeot’s head of product development Laurent Blanchet, it has a clear focus on supporting an emotional relationship between car and consumer.

Its responsive i-Cockpit seen reacts when switching between ‘Drive’ and ‘Autonomous’ modes to create the most suitable environment. When in ‘Autonomous’ mode, the trademark Peugeot compact steering wheel and toggle switch panel fold into the dashboard and the accelerator pedal folds back into the pedal unit to liberate more cabin space.

In both ‘Drive’ and ‘Autonomous’ modes, the driver retains control over the vehicle through the i-Device, which sits next to the 9.7” screen in the centre console. The i-Device enables the driver to switch between modes for actions such as overtaking.

Drawing from aeronautic design, the seat base, seat back and headrest are all treated individually, allowing occupants to select the position most suited to them, such as horizontal if they want to rest, upright to drive, or in-between to watch a film or work.  Passengers can also all communicate with the vehicle through a chatbot, a speech-driven personal assistant offering an array of services, including booking cinema tickets or buying online.

Speaking to TU-Automotive, Blanchet said: “The Peugeot concept Instinct is trying to answer the question ‘How can the car adapt itself to the people using a car-sharing service?’ The car is not just a robot for us, we need the cars to seen as ‘friendly’ to the consumer, especially with Peugeot because we want to maintain the driving pleasure and also the pleasure of being in the car. We see it as not only a machine and we want to maintain this emotional relationship with the consumer whether it is as a driver or a passenger.”

Blanchet stressed the importance to Peugeot of keeping the driver at the centre of the decision making procedure. He explained: “With Peugeot Instinct we have both of these – there are two modes: one as a fully autonomous driving system and the other provides a sporting drive with a small, racy, steering wheel and a fast driving experience. This is a way for us to maintain the attractiveness of the vehicle that allows the user to have a relationship with a car and not just a machine or robot.”

While admitting it’s too early to predict the exact look of a future autonomous capable vehicle, Blanchet said brand identity is vital wherever the design journey takes us.

He said: “This is perfectly in line with our strategy of being an emotional brand so all the technological systems we are developing have to work with that overriding need to maintain the pleasure our customers get from being in a car.”

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