Over the decades, Peugeot has earned a reputation for developing zany concept cars, like the Jetsons-like 1986 Proxima, the rocket-shaped Asphalt, or Moovie — an urban two-seater that looks more like a computer mouse than an actual car. The French manufacturer's new Instinct concept, unveiled at Mobile World Congress today, doesn't look as wildly futuristic as some of its previous creations — but according to Peugeot’s design team, that’s exactly the point.
"In the future, maybe you will have cars that can be only autonomous, and it will be forbidden to drive anymore,” says Matthias Hossann, head of concept car and advanced design at Peugeot. “But this transition will be very long, and what we wanted to illustrate here is part of this transition, because this will take time.”
“That’s why we didn’t create something that looks like a UFO.”
“This is a bridge, and it’s something that we would like to push for the future,” Hossann adds. “That’s why we didn’t create something that looks like a UFO.”
The Instinct is certainly a nice looking car, and the design of its interior seems particularly clean and intuitive. But like many other connected car concepts, so much of its promise — the idea of cruising around in an autonomous, intelligent remote home that talks to all of your other devices — is predicated on a near-future that is still hard for most consumers to envision.
Speaking to journalists at Peugeot’s design complex outside Paris last week, Hossann said that unlike previous concept cars, the Instinct was designed from the inside-out. The idea is that drivers will be able to choose how much control they want to cede to the car — there are two self-driving modes and two active modes — and that the car, in turn, will be able to adjust its driving based on data collected from connected devices. (The car is designed to integrate with Samsung’s Artik IoT platform.) If you just logged a hard workout on your smartwatch, for example, the Instinct could automatically shift into an “autonomous soft” mode to let you relax.
The plug-in hybrid’s interior design is clean and austere, with a more pared-down version of the i-Cockpit that Peugeot first announced in 2010. The steering wheel and gas pedal are both retractable, and the center console consists of a large screen and an “i-Device” — a small, mouse-like handle that drivers can use to adjust interior controls or switch between driving modes. The floors are finished with a thin concrete layer, and its four seats are made of 3D mesh that is designed to adjust to the contours of a passenger’s body.
The Instinct’s exterior is a combination of sharp angles and curves — the company says it was inspired by its “great coachbuilding tradition” — though it wouldn’t look entirely out of place on roads today. (It’s about the same size as Peugeot’s 308 hatchback). The car’s large, five-spoke wheels convey a powerful aura (it makes 300 horsepower), and there are colorful lighting flourishes under the grille and taillights. An air duct system has also been subtly integrated into the car’s body for enhanced aerodynamics.
“When you see a car with aerodynamic features, it looks like add-ons put on the car, so it’s difficult to have something simple and really elegant,” Hossann said.
The Instinct will make its official debut at the Geneva Motor Show next month, though Peugeot says that the technology underpinning the car likely won’t enter production until 2025 at the earliest.
Photography by Amar Toor / The Verge