There is no doubt that autonomous vehicle technology is going to shape the future of the industry. As people spend more time in their vehicles, engaging in non-driving activities, interior design will play a much bigger role. It is becoming clear that, once vehicles have the capability to be computer-driven, consumers are going to demand far more flexibility from their interior space – and innovative features and functions that we have never seen before in the automotive environment. 

Adient is the largest global automotive seating supplier, created when Johnson Controls’ automotive seating business was spun off as an
independent, publically-traded company in October 2016. It shared its vision of how this future will be realised with its two distinctive concepts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, January 2017. 

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In AI-17n (Adient Innovation 2017 NAIAS), the first- and second-row seats address the mega-trends that will be important in the years 2020 and beyond: superior comfort and convenience, urban mobility,
individualisation and autonomous driving. Adient believes that the function of vehicle seats will change significantly as the driver’s role diminishes, and the AI-17n demonstrator explores the resulting possibilities for occupant interaction, incorporating a social seating arrangement. 

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“This interior vision explores a premium consumer experience paired with the new opportunities enabled by automated driving technology,” explains John Gomez, Adient’s advanced design manager, Industrial Design North America. “The seats move with the occupants throughout the interior space.” The AI-17n’s front seats sit on a rotational platform integrated into the floor and, in ‘greeting’ mode, they can rotate outward by up to 70 degrees and, together with the seat tracks, slide outside of the vehicle. They can then rotate inboard 15 degrees toward one another, once the vehicle is moving and in autonomous ‘conversation’ mode. 

The AI-17n’s seats use Adient’s latest thin seating technology. The patented Comfort Shell features a slim flexible panel that conforms to the occupant’s body along the spine, giving optimal lumbar support through the range of movement. The narrow profile of the seats creates significant additional interior space for passengers to move around. “Unique to this concept are armrests on both sides of the seats that move with the body while rotating and reclining,” says Gomez. “The armrests also incorporate a retractable interface display that controls all of the seat’s functionality at the touch of a fingertip.”

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In Level 3 autonomous driving, relaxation is one of the user needs at the top of the list. Addressing this, Adient’s team designed the front row seats to recline rearward up to 45 degrees from the natural pivot point of the hip. “The cantilevered headrest moves in sync with the seat back through the rotation to support the occupant’s head, while keeping the sightline on the road ahead,” Gomez explains. “This means you’re not just looking up at the headliner in the reclined position, and the driver can still get back to the drive position fairly quickly.” 

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Meanwhile, the rear seats also have a relaxation position, allowing  passengers to recline into a barrier formed by the rear parcel shelf to create a personal space for solitude. In the centre of the rear seat, a unique seat cushion forms a comfortable armrest when deployed.  While the armrest is in this position, a personal storage space is revealed for small items. The rear seats also have an integrated fold-out leg rest for added comfort while maintaining a thin floating look. Many more new innovations are showcased within the AI-17n demonstrator, allowing for so much space that the interior feels much bigger than a traditional configuration of the same size.

Unveiled alongside the A1-17n is the YFAI XIM 17 Concept for Level 4 automated driving [below]. Designed by the Shanghai studio of YFAI (Yanfeng Automotive Interiors), a joint venture partner of Adient, this
interior concept features a flexible seating configuration which provides maximum interior space and enables many different usage modes. 

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Established: 2016

Global HQ: Detroit, USA

Global locations: 230

Employees: 75,000