Much like the demand for cupholders changed the design of vehicle interiors in the 1990’s, there is another ergonomic seismic shift going on because of our reliance on electronics. Automakers are being forced to redesign the interiors of cars and trucks because of the need for additional space for charging and storing phones, tablets and laptops.
The interior of the 2017 Ford Fusion has been shifted around to create more storage capacity within arm’s reach of the driver. The most dramatic change is moving the gear shifter to a rotary dial on the console. The move frees up the space that was typically blocked by the lever.
Ford has crafted what it is calling a media bin, a storage area just under the 8-inch touch screen, that also includes a lighted USB port, so you can charge one of your devices. Another storage slot has been added to hold your phone or other gadgets. The new design is also meant to improve cord management, so cords aren’t hanging all over the front of your vehicle.
The change in the shifter also means an improvement for the all-important cupholders. Ever since the rise of fast-food and coffee, cupholders and their convenience have been a major selling point to consumers. In the 2017 Ford Fusion, the cupholders are being moved closer to the passenger and aligned one in-front-of the other instead of side-by-side. They are still convenient for the driver, but it frees up more room.
Also, to increase storage, for hiding your valuable electronics, the arm rest is being lengthened to expand the size of the compartment underneath.
Ford isn’t the only automaker, working on the redesign of interiors and optimizing storage and charging. General Motors has designers working to make its wireless-charging compartments and pads more convenient in its vehicles. The ease of connectivity is especially important in its truck lines. So many truck owners use their pickups as mobile offices, it is important that they can be connected at all times.
Nearly all automakers are rushing to add wireless charging because smartphones use a tremendous amount of battery power. A huge hang-up is that there are two major wireless charging systems available and neither is standard for all vehicles. Also, not all smartphones are capable of wireless charging, although adapters are available. Anyone who uses their phone for popular mapping apps like Waze and Google-Maps is aware of how quickly they drain your battery power.
Finding ways to keep you powered up and on the road may be what leads to the biggest vehicle interior design changes in over a decade.