Understanding the future disruptions in automotive design with Autodesk

On January 31, Autocar Professional hosted a webinar on the subject - Future Disruptions in Automotive Design with Autodesk Studio tools – detailing the key global automotive design trends that are being fuelled by the EV transition, changing consumer preferences, sustainability, as well as supply chain constraints.

By Mayank Dhingra calendar 10 Feb 2024 Views icon11637 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Understanding the future disruptions in automotive design with Autodesk

As the automotive industry transitions towards greener and more sustainable vehicles, there is a marked shift in vehicle designs that are increasingly being driven by changing consumer preferences, as well as sustainability factors.

The rise of EVs, autonomous driving capabilities, as well as connectivity features are compelling designers to reimagine traditional vehicle layouts, and their styling, even as the shift towards sustainable practices with a growing emphasis on eco-friendly materials, aerodynamics, and efficiency, is another key element propelling this change.

Similarly, forces linked to the ever-changing consumer aspirations and behaviour—driven by factors like rapid urbanisation, rise in disposable incomes, digital and social awareness, as well as supply chain disruptions caused by unexpected events like the Covid-19 pandemic — are already impacting automotive design.

As the automotive design landscape continues to evolve, the industry finds itself at the intersection of technological innovation, cultural sensitivity, and a commitment to shaping a more sustainable and connected future. This change in vehicle design is expanding into the realm of automotive design tools as well, which is advancing swiftly, with numerous disruptive trends poised to influence the future of car design. 

To deliberate further upon the future trends in automotive design, and to gain insights into how technology will play a crucial role in enabling vehicle designs of the future, Autocar Professional, along with Autodesk, hosted a webinar on January 31.

The hour-long virtual session on the topic – Future Disruptions in Automotive Design with Autodesk Studio tools – dived into the global trends in automotive design, as well as the challenges and opportunities ahead of the industry as it aims to offer eco-friendly mobility solutions. The session shed light on how certain disruptions in the traditional automotive design approaches have the potential to shape the future of mobility and challenge conformist styling concepts. The webinar also delved into understanding the relevance of Autodesk tools like Alias, and VRED, that are enabling the changing vehicle designs across automakers globally.

Autodesk Industrial Design Specialist Samarth Gupta took to the platform to deliver his presentation, detailing the various aspects of automotive design, and the factors influencing it in the present global scenario. According to Gupta, while climate change is a critical factor influencing modern vehicle design, growing urbanisation, geo-political situations, as well as technologies like autonomous driving, and electrification are some of the other key drivers of the ongoing transformation in automotive design globally.

“Moreover, consumer behaviour is changing with people becoming more self-actualised, and having started to challenge the status quo,” he said, while explaining that a vehicle’s styling must reflect its user’s personality. He added that in such a scenario, maintaining brand loyalty would remain the focal point of every OEM, which will continue to face mounting challenges of creating products with a wide appeal.

A clean slate with EVs

According to Gupta, EVs have redefined the design rulebook with the elimination of the IC engine, and giving designers more scope to work innovatively. “With lesser mechanical components in ground-up EV platforms, a lot of space gets liberated, thereby reducing the vehicle footprint.” This, Gupta explained, enables designers to realise extra focus on the vehicle’s interior that is increasingly becoming the third living space after home and office.

He pointed out that EVs of the future will have distinct aesthetic elements, like the lack of a front grille, as carmakers too want to differentiate ICE vehicles in their portfolios from the EVs. “They want to excite the consumers in a way that the occupant feels being part of the future. An EV, therefore, gives a distinct air to the OEM’s brand identity as well,” Gupta added.

With sustainability becoming a global megatrend, and with the conscious focus of organisations as well as individuals towards limiting the use of natural resources, Gupta said that ‘nature-inspired design’ is a key future design trend, which will primarily be enabled by technology.

In terms of vehicle interior too, there is a marked shift towards designing cabins around the user. “There is a growing use of parametric designs, and OEMs are using bold colour palettes as well to reflect cultural preferences, as well as elevate the brand’s perception,” he said.

“Autodesk provides relevant tools to designers, enabling them to explore more complex designs. These tools incorporate design scripts into their design workflow,” he added. Gupta explained that designers can utilise pre-written scripts, and cited that some impactful designs - like the PIX autonomous vehicle crafted by the US-based mobility firm, PIX Moving, have been created using this computational design philosophy.

Sculptures and Class-A surfaces

Gupta further explained that vehicle aesthetics play a key role in determining consumer preference towards a particular product, and with the increasing focus on sustainability, there is a future possibility of OEMs embracing the concept of sustainable aesthetics that are pleasing to the eye, and do not age quickly. “This is a design trend that we could see going forward as it is directly linked with greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

He further added that despite the increasing foray of several technological tools like generative AI into the vehicle design process, the subjective notions of beauty and aesthetics can only be captured by an expert. “These are the primary drivers of a customer’s buying decision, and OEMs, will, therefore, not compromise on these attributes in future vehicles,” Gupta pointed out, while stating that the development of vehicle exteriors would remain critical in automotive design of the future, and OEMs could even charge a premium on the better-styled products, thereby increasing their profit margins.

Leveraging AR, VR and XR

With a significant digitisation push in the global automotive ecosystem, technologies such as artificial reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and extended reality (XR) – which encapsulates the previous two – are enabling faster development of new products, as well as driving collaborations among teams across different verticals.

Furthermore, the growing demands of consumers who are increasingly looking for more personalised and customised offerings, requires tools that can allow customers to be part of the design journey. According to Gupta, “The unique demands and experiences of customers drive personalisation demands, and therefore OEMs could think of a business model to allow consumers to co-create elements, or participate in the design journey itself.”

“Customers could be given the opportunity to design something in the pre-form so that their aspirations can be captured easily. An automotive clinic could help with something like this,” he said, while further explaining that generative design, as well as additive manufacturing can help companies create a multitude of optimised designs, and offer personalised options to consumers.

Gupta explained that while AR and VR are playing a key role, the XR is a step further towards merging the virtual and real-world together. “With XR, the two realities have merged, and though it is only being presently used in the design space, such experiences are likely to become normal in the future, even in terms of customer sales experiences,” he said.

“The consumer journey will be defined by technology, and with Autodesk VRED tools, companies can deliver advanced renderings through cloud- or server-based solutions, to be streamed to a device. The rendering could enable a customer to make an informed decision, and therefore, could be of immense value to OEMs,” he signed off.

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