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Innovative Designs Thinking In Auto Industry

The uncertainty caused by Covid-19 has been turned into a learning and innovation opportunity for the design team at Tata Motors.

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As the pandemic disrupts businesses and throws our economic future into uncertainty, the automotive industry is at the front of confronting these tectonic shifts. The Covid-19 crisis is changing the perception of mobility, on a global scale. It has impacted how we travel, and the emphasis now seems to be shifting back to personal ownership than shared usership. Personal and family health and well-being is now top of mind, and this shift in attitude is driving automotive design. 

Consumer perception driving demand

Public-transit ridership has fallen considerably in major cities across the world and as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc, physical distancing, and personal hygiene will have a significant impact on mobility behavior and preferences, thereby causing a major shift towards personal vehicles. With safety being the top priority, customers today are seeking differentiated experiences and offerings from their vehicles. For instance, the need for hygienic interiors is an emerging expectation for both used and new vehicles. Carmakers may need to redesign interior materials and surfaces to reduce the possibility of the spread of infections. Anti-bacterial coatings, easy to clean surfaces and partitions between passengers and drivers could be some of these. 

Tools of the (virtual) trade

Product development primarily consists of three major stages: vehicle design andengineering, NVH and aerodynamic performance and finally, durability testing and validation. All of these are highly collaborative activities which require internal design and engineering teams to work closely with external partners and suppliers to bring a product to the market. Despite the challenges of face-to-face collaboration and remote working away from the studio, automotive designers are using software such as Alias, ICEM-Surf, V-Red and others, for digital modelling, surfacing and visualisation. This digital ‘master’ is then shared with internal and external teams for collaborative development. 

The uncertainty caused by Covid-19 has been turned into a learning and innovation opportunity for the design team at Tata Motors. The team has been utilising work-from-home as an opportunity to develop and innovate a robust digital system and database to facilitate remote design and development for their products. 

The shift in thinking has automotive designers working on ways to also enhance the overall end-to-end ownership and usership experience of a car. 

Towards a contactless future

The aftermath of the pandemic will lead to new environmental, social, and governance regulatory requirements that minimize the amount of human touch involved in each product. The automotive industry may need to be restructured to go contactless and reduce physical interaction between humans throughout its operations, all the way to the end product. Creating designs that customers feel safe and comfortable in is the need of the hour and automotive manufacturers would do great by rewiring their design rationale and norms to address this evolving demand.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Pratap Bose

The author is VP, Global Design, Tata Motors

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