JCI Touts Futuristic Car Interior

January 9, 2004
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DETROIT — In offering the automotive world a futuristic design for a car’s interior, Johnson Controls Inc. seeks to showcase an engineering capability that plays into new technologies that will define vehicles in the decade ahead.

The 3E concept interior, unveiled at the North American International Auto Show and created by engineers at JCI’s Edgar Prince Technical Center in Holland, features components that are designed to meet coming changes in the automotive industry, most notably the emergence of fuel-cell-powered and drive-by-wire vehicles.

In the 3E concept — short for ecology, economy and ergonomics — Johnson Controls seeks to provide automakers “solutions for emerging social and technological trends” and generate interest in innovations they can integrate into the interior of future vehicles.

“It gets people thinking about it,” said Keith Wandell, president of JCI’s Automotive Systems Group.

The 3E concept, Wandell said, “is as innovative as it is practical.”

The concept interior features a full-glass roof to bring more natural light into the vehicle’s interior and create a feeling of spaciousness; stationary front seats with adjustable accelerator and braking pedals; rear seats that are mounted to the side and adjustable in numerous positions to provide more space for cargo storage and passengers; and a “floating” instrument panel that features a touch-screen monitor for vehicle controls mounted to the firewall by an adjustable support arm.

The interior also integrates electronic devices such as wireless phones and PDAs that are used with a vehicle’s telematics system.

Components in the 3E interior concept are produced from recycled and sustainable textiles and recyclable plastics.

The concept interior is intended for vehicles as far away as the 2010 to 2015 model years, although some elements could begin appearing on vehicles sooner, said Rob Fitzpatrick, principal designer for the 3E program in Holland.

Next up for 3E is to “take it on the road” and show off the interior to automakers and the public during upcoming auto shows, Fitzpatrick said.

The idea behind developing a concept interior is to showcase JCI’s capability and then work with interested automakers to see how various elements fit with future vehicle designs, Fitzpatrick said.

“It’s a baby step to the future,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s telling our customer, ‘Hey, we’re thinking. We can do what you ask, but we can look at things with exciting innovation.’”

JCI also showed off an aluminum rail system installed on a vehicle’s floor that enables automakers to easily install electronic components in a plug-and-play style. The rail provides power to components such as consoles, storage bins and electric outlets and allows for their easy adjustment forward and backward.

The Floor Rail System builds on the Railport that JCI unveiled two years ago at the Detroit auto show for overhead components and is now installed in Ford’s F-series pick-up trucks. JCI announced last week that GM will use the Railport system on its new 2005 Buick Terraza, Saturn Relay, Chevrolet Uplander and Pontiac Montana SV6 crossover vehicles that begin production in the third quarter.

The system is designed for “family-oriented” vehicles such as mini-vans, three-row SUVs and crossover vehicles.           

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