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Auto Interiors Firm Reinventing Space Inside Autonomous Vehicles

SUNNYVALE (KPIX 5) -- A world leader in automobile interiors is planning for the day when sitting inside a car will involve many activities besides driving.

Shanghai-based Yanfeng Automotive Interiors is the world's biggest maker of car interiors. The company is starting up a 25-member innovation team in Sunnyvale, and are trying to answer the question: what will people do in their vehicle if they no longer have to drive?

The company has four different answers to that question.

"The vision we have is that we want to put you in your living room even before you arrived home," said Yanfeng Principal Designer Leo Schurhaus.

The first option is traditional mode, where you sit just like you normally do inside a car.

With a tap of the app, it converts to family mode: the steering wheel stows itself away, the front seats angle inward at 18 degrees, and the two rear seats move in close, to better watch TV on the front display. A built-in refrigerator comes in handy.

Then there is meeting mode, where the rear seats stow away, and the front passenger seat spins around to face the rear.

That configuration included two stowaway desks.

Finally, there is lounge mode, which mimics the viewing experience inside your living room, complete with a curved, LED display embedded in the roof.

Designers want you to reclaim time that would have been spent driving yourself around, stressed out in a car.

"We are in a position, however, to inspire car companies to build interiors that support the autonomous lifestyle," said Schurhaus. "And we wanted you to have that home feeling while you're facing that one-and-a-half-hour commute."

Yanfeng insists all this is not just some designer's pipe dream, or Silicon Valley crazy talk.

Yanfeng is ramping up for the first self-driving cars to hit the market by 2020.

"Absolutely," said Schurhaus. "We as a company, we have no doubt this technology is coming."

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