"COVID-19 will very much influence the way we design our cars in future," Karim Habib, Kia's new design chief, told Car Magazine. Specifically, it might halt what was previously a foregone inclusion: "For the last few years we have been talking about a sharing economy, shared mobility and public transportation," Habib says. "We will have to see how that develops right now, because of social distancing.
"These new requirements will have a long-term effect on behaviour. What does this mean for cars? I think we'll have to wait and see - right now we are trying to expand our understanding of what this might mean - not only the types of vehicles we drive, but also how to design vehicles for shared mobility, or not, as the case may be."
On a more prosaic level, Hyundai--which was already using antimicrobial paints and materials on their interiors prior to the pandemic--revealed that they're "developing self-sterilizing materials to maintain clean, antiviral, and antibacterial cabins," and also "about to use UV light sterilization technology on their vehicles."
"Direct UV rays are well known to be harmful to human skin, so the feature should be activated while no one is in the car. It would be ideal and effective when the device is on the ceiling because it could sterilize the seats, floor mats, dashboard, and the steering wheel all at the same time."
Ford has yet another approach. As Autoblog reports, Ford recently rolled out a software update for all of its Police Interceptor Utility vehicles dating back to 2013. When the vehicle is empty, the heater bakes the car to more than 133 degrees for 15 minutes, which "lowers the viral concentration by greater than 99% on interior surfaces and materials." The car flashes its exterior lights during the heating process, as a warning not to enter.
The company says they plan to roll the software out to other vehicle models--thus far, police-kitted vehicles only. No word on when the technology will be made available to civilians.