In the future, our cars will drive themselves. That much is clear. But what we choose to do with our time while being driven to our destinations has sparked a weird, little-noticed movement in the technology and auto industries to redefine automobiles as social environments on par with our homes and work places, a space also known as the “third place.”
Take Rinspeed, for example. The Swiss automaker (and self-described think tank) showed up at CES this year with a concept car that turned more than a few heads: the Oasis, an adorable, semi-translucent, self-driving pod with gesture control, white leather swivel seats, an augmented reality windshield. Funkier still, the Oasis had a tiny garden of succulents growing on the dashboard, injecting a little photosynthesis in our increasingly synthetic lifestyles. It was a literal breath of fresh air in a sea of sterile technology.