Virtual Conference

What will the future of mobility look like 10 years down the road? Automakers and suppliers are buckling up for big changes as autonomous technology, ridesharing and electric vehicles begin to transform the way we get from Point A to Point B.

Christian Crews
Christian Crews, futurist at Kalypso and keynote speaker at the event, offers insight into how mobility trends are impacting the automotive industry.

During a half-day summit at the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh, Covestro hit fast forward to the year 2030—a time when this future is predicted to become reality. The event, called “RoadTrip 2030: Designing today for the passengers of tomorrow,” brought together over 160 attendees (plus another 60 from around the world watching via an interactive virtual conference platform) to explore the disruptive trends that are transforming the future of transportation.

Christian Crews, keynote speaker and futurist at Kalypso, an innovation consulting firm, kicked off the event by encouraging attendees to keep an open mind about the future.

“If the future was perfectly predictable, by definition, we couldn’t change it. So we need to embrace the uncertainty of the future. That’s how we can innovate, grow our companies and change society for the better.”

Following the keynote, attendees heard from a number of experts across the value chain—from automakers, suppliers and ridesharing companies to research, engineering and design institutes. These conversations focused on the trends, concepts and materials that are shaping the future of mobility.

In one panel, experts from Carnegie Mellon University, Uber Advanced Technologies Group, College of Creative Studies and Seegrid explored the evolution of autonomous vehicle technologies.

Christine Bryant, senior vice president for Polyurethanes, Covestro LLC, tries out the Covestro virtual reality experience in a live demonstration.

According to Chris D’Eramo, industrial design lead, Uber Advanced Technologies Group, there won’t be just one autonomous vehicle (AV) of the future, but many AVs of the future. This will lead to different vehicles for a variety of passenger experiences.

“There’s a whole spectrum of possibilities and we’re only just scratching the surface now,” said Paul Snyder, chairperson, transportation design, College of Creative Studies.

The conversation later shifted from “what” to “how” as panelists from PPG Industries, Bridgestone and Covestro shared how these future passenger experiences will be realized and how materials will need to evolve to enable the vehicles of tomorrow.

Paige Kassalen, market analyst, Covestro LLC, said that Covestro explored multiple scenarios for experiences that riders will want and how they will impact material specifications for performance—such as durable floor surfaces that are welcoming and warm, customization with ambient lighting, and sound-absorbing polyurethane foam for a quiet cabin.

Digitalization was another topic of discussion at RoadTrip 2030 as the automotive industry searches for increasingly innovative and high-tech solutions.

“The automotive industry is undergoing a digital transformation. Autonomous, electric and ridesharing vehicles are disrupting the industry in ways we couldn’t have envisioned just a few short years ago,” said Currie Crookston, head of innovation, Covestro LLC, and emcee for the event.

RoadTrip 2030 venue
RoadTrip 2030 took place at the Energy Innovation Center, a space in Pittsburgh that features Covestro materials in the walls and on the floors.

Not only is digitalization changing the way vehicles are designed, driven and shared … it also allows people to visualize these transformations before they even occur.

For that reason, Covestro developed a new virtual reality program that debuted at RoadTrip 2030—placing attendees into the passenger seat of a virtual rideshare. The technology showcases the critical role that materials will play in designing AV interiors that cater to diverse passenger needs.

In closing the event, Crookston shared his optimism for a future of continuous evolution and innovation in the world of mobility.

“Based on what we’ve seen and heard today, I believe we have an exciting future ahead—one that will be driven by collaboration from different industries, all across the value chain. Together, we can shape the future of mobility that we want and need.”