Ikea is synonymous not only with affordable items for the home, but with a clean, spare look. Now its lab Space 10 is taking a swipe at self-driving cars and their design. There are seven different concepts in total, all with a unique focus. One is a café car, that serves up coffee on the go. Another is a pop-up store, and a third is an office on wheels, so you can truly squeeze in some meetings before the workday begins.
While cars are already getting autonomous features from the ability to self-park and to maintain a constant speed, a mainstream vehicle that completely drives itself is still a future concept. Still, experts believe fully autonomous cars will eventually be on the roads in larger numbers than the few trials happening today. When they do, there's bound to be a new look to the inside of these people movers as a driver's seat — or even a seat at all — will no longer be needed.
Ikea is not the first to imagine a new shift in how autonomous vehicles may look on their interior and exterior. Nor are they unique in imagining a road-worthy vehicle with unique spaces inside. Anyone who has traveled with a band on the road, or rented a simple motorhome, has hit the highway with bedrooms, bathrooms, and an occasional bar packed inside.
Some of Ikea's concepts have a bit of a twist, taking full advantage of the car motif to put some services, traditionally rooted to an office or landlocked to the ground, on the road.
There's the Farm on Wheels, a modern angle on the 19th Century produce cart — with fresh fruit, vegetables and even mobile miniature farms wending their way along city streets. Hotel on Wheels lets you bunk while you travel, akin to the Winnebago, but here a computer is taking care of making sure you get to your destination.
Healthcare on Wheels offers a social spin by putting doctors back on the road, and making house calls. While mobile medical clinics are not uncommon today, a self-driving vehicle means more medically-trained people can fit inside the interior, and potentially help more people.
None of these vehicles are in planned production — nor will you see them for sale at an Ikea near you. But for anyone eager for a closer look at the concept cars, Ikea's tapping another technology it's toying with, augmented reality, letting people get a closer virtual view of the vehicles by downloading the Space 10 iOS app. Ikea's famous meatballs are not included.