Instrument displays with glare control. Built-in voice recorders which remind you to go to the supermarket. An information panel providing the driver with huge amounts of data. If you can imagine all these things, then you may have an idea of what Johnson Controls Inc. is preparing for motorists in the future.
A goal of these new projects is to accommodate the aging postwar - or 'baby boomer' - population without overlooking younger generations, said Bill Fluharty, director of advanced design for Johnson Controls.
'We have to make displays and controls much easier to use. That goes not only for the `baby boomers' but the younger population as well,' Fluharty said. 'Older people will not want to struggle through three layers of controls to find where they are going.'
Lear Corp. is also exploring the market for aging motorists. At March's SAE International Congress and Exposition in Detroit, Lear gave visitors a look at the future with its 'TransG.' This modified Dodge Caravan serves as a prototype of what an older person's vehicle may look like.
It includes door handles that are thicker and easier to use, an instrument panel that moves toward the driver into a memory position, and modified seats with swiveling platforms.
Fluharty envisions gadgets that will go into vehicles for the mature crowd. For example, easy-to-read displays with better glare control will be important for senior citizens who wear bifocals. Seats that let older drivers get in and out of vehicles more easily are also being designed For younger motorists, Johnson Controls is working on interiors that will blend work and recreational needs, using more fold-down seats and other storage compartments.