This is a specific example of how automakers are mulling application-specific designs for car-sharing and ride-hailing. Kia is exploring purpose-built trims for ride-hailing drivers, which might include augmented rear seat controls, outlets, and so on.
Looking past modern-day evolutions of commercial models, mature AV, EV, and advanced manufacturing technologies (and regulations) would enable radically different vehicle concepts — beyond removing steering wheels from standard two- or three-box designs.
OEM and startup designers have dreamt up concepts from linkable pod vehicles to airy, reconfigurable interiors. Zoox is a well-known private player working ground-up AV designs, and has filed a patent for a modular quadrant-based vehicle:
More flexible assets and interiors would be a boon for robotaxi operators, especially in early phases of deployment where matching load with demand could be a major challenge (the cost and risk of scaling an AV fleet will flip “asset-light” ride-hailing models on their head — the airline industry is often cited as an analogue).
Today, players are mainly focused on natural use cases in transportation and logistics. Further out, new technologies will also drive second-order evolutions of what constitutes a “vehicle” that will trickle across industries.