Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Global Designer Andre Hudson Gives Us A Peek Into Tomorrows Self-Driving Car Interiors

Unless you’ve been literally asleep at the wheel, no pun intended, both electric and self-driving vehicles are in the pipeline. This next phase of passenger transportation, which is literally one of the most significant changes the industry has experienced, since the shift from horses and buggies to gasoline engine vehicles, is literally right around the corner.

Since the 60s and the airing of the cartoon The Jetsons, we’ve been hearing about self driving, flying vehicles. Well, believe it or not, we’re finally closer than we have ever been. We’re literally in the mix of mapping out the next phase of the transportation system. While infrastructure will have to be put in place to accommodate how we commute, designers are working vigorously behind the scene to reimagine the experience of traveling in a vehicle, since the traditional means of sitting behind the steering wheel will no longer be in play.

In order to give us a peek into the future, JeffCars.com caught up with one of the foremost forward-thinkers and creative spirits in the field of  automotive design – Andre Hudson.  Hudson, who has spent years using his gift to create award-winning vehicles for both GM and Hyundai, recently led a team of designers and sculptors, while serving as the design director for the Italy-based Icona Design, imagining the next wave of vehicles.

As the design director of the California studio, Hudson, who is one of 30 Black car designers in the world, worked in collaboration with Icona’s design studios in both Germany and Italy, creating a vehicle that would finally give the world a realistic glimpse on the auto show circuit of what’s to come. The all-new bubble shaped Nucleus, which kind of reminds one of a flying saucer, made its international global debut during the spring of 2018 at the Geneva International Auto Show. However, the vehicle only made one stop in the U.S., and that was last November, at the L. A. Auto Show.

Being that most of us weren’t even aware  such a concept as the Nucleus existed, we wanted to go one-on-one with Hudson, who is one of two brothers in the world who are currently reshaping the future of what we now know as the passenger vehicle. Unlike Hudson, who only focused on this game changing concept for a short time period, Robert Walker, the other brother, landed in a newly created position at Ford Motor Company last October. Walker’s focus is to place all of his energies in leading the Detroit-based automaker in the autonomous vehicle design movement.

Ironically, the Nucleus is the first concept vehicle that we are aware of from our conversation with Hudson that has used both technological and manufacturing techniques in a manner that the world nor the auto show circuit has never seen.

So, with all that said, check out our one-on-one conversation with Hudson.

Design Director Andre Hudson had a big hand in leading his America-based team to create the Icona Nucleus concept. (Photo Credit: AH)

Is the Nucleus based on a zero emissions vehicle?

Andre Hudson: The Nucleus is not based on a particular zero emissions vehicle but it is a zero emissions vehicle. The basic layout was designed to be fully electric, with the possibility of a hydrogen fuel cell supporting the battery system. Ultimately, it is about the pushing the usable interior space to the max. When level 5 autonomy becomes feasible, we will be able to remove the steering wheel and driver controls all together and use that space more efficiently. (Level 5 autonomy makes the vehicle completely self-driving.)

What role did the U.S. studio that you oversaw play in the creation of the Nucleus?

Andre Hudson: While the Nucleus was a global project for Icona Design, the U. S. studio led the project with all of the concept sketch development, which consisted of concept ideation and clay model development for the exterior. We also began the initial digital development of the interior in the US. As the concept size grew and came into formation, we used our global resources in design, digital modeling, and engineering to complete the Nucleus.

What inspired the design?

Andre Hudson: Inspiration came from many places, but most directly the idea that we wanted to make a larger mono-volume vehicle (essentially a van) into the most beautiful and sensual shape that we could. No matter what concept vehicle shapes you see produced every year, there is still no form as efficient as using a box for interior volume.

When we looked at larger vehicle designs, particularly yachts, we see this idea of a aero (or hydro) efficient shape surrounding beautifully appointed living quarters. In many ways the exterior of the Nucleus is a similar idea. On the interior we actually looked at high-end architectural spaces like those find in various premium resorts around the world and even first-class appointments found on today’s large capacity airliners.

Icona Nucleus Concept (Photo Credit: Icona Design)

What makes the interior of the Nucleus unique?

Andre Hudson: The interior of the Nucleus was meant to surprise you as you stepped inside and took a seat. It was to be the most non-automotive feeling space one could imagine. We really wanted it to feel as though you were truly in a modern lounge or a hotel suite.

It is interesting, pictures really do not do the space justice. You have to sit in it and take in all the lines, the light and the ambiance. We did everything possible to optimize the vehicle layout. The batteries were packaged under the floor, with full autonomy, there was no space required for the steering wheel and typical driver controls, and we packaged the motors for the drive system within each of the 28” wheels.

Essentially, all the mechanicals (devices normally in a vehicle) were pushed outside the passenger space. This allowed us to structure the interior more like a hotel suite or a rolling lounge. When the large single sliding door and hatch opens, you see a space that is warm and inviting. Three distinct seating areas present themselves, which are finished in cream and deep blue leather. A warm, indirect light feature leads your eye from the front to the rear (this feature also is an abstraction of our Icona logo). And a beautiful deep blue wood veneer spans the floor from front to back. We divided the space up into three key zones: the office, the lounge and the loft.

Towards the front of the vehicle you’ll find the office, with a large captain chair that greets you on entry and rotates you around 180 degrees. This is where you’ll find a full width desk, with a built-in keyboard and iPad dock. Out of this desk also raises a full service bar, complete with ice, champagne and flutes. The front occupant will also appreciate the surrounding terrarium housing live plants that breathes an air of life into this modern space. Centrally you will see a wide format display used to communicate key information to all occupants.

In the mid section, which you see first when the large door opens, you see a beautifully styled chaise lounge. Totally unexpected for a vehicle, it presents itself as being more like a piece of furniture than a car seat. It is meant to evoke a feeling of style, relaxation and modernity. This space can seat two sitting side-by-side or one occupant reclined.

And towards the rear of the Nucleus you’ll find the Loft. Another captain style chair that is elevated slight above the others on a raised, back-lit platform. This seat was designed for the ‘boss’. It has been designed with a cantilevered desk that houses an iPad and blanket. The seat can also be tilted rearward to a zero gravity position for ultimate comfort. The view over the rest of the Nucleus interior is truly spectacular from the seat.

How many people is the Nucleus designed to transport? The Nucleus was really designed around 3 occupants. Remember space is luxury and that’s what our intent is to demonstrate. We did think about the necessity to carry more than 3, and for that, we designed the desk in the rear. Not only does it disappear into the rear, it exposes a secondary seat to the left of the loft captain chair. Again, as mentioned before, the lounge area could accommodate 2, bringing the overall vehicle capacity to 5.

Click here to check out part two of JeffCars.com’s conversation with Andre Hudson. Since our interview, Hudson, who has been highly sought after of in the world of car designs, has accepted a new role as the head of design for the California-based Independence Electric. Hudson will lead the design of this firm’s electric vehicles.

About JeffCars.com: Jeff Fortson is the host of SiriusXM’s Auto Trends with JeffCars.com. For more details about the show and more cruise over to JeffCars.com.

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