Ambulances of Tomorrow

Students from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit bring automation to first responders.
Covestro automobile design
Safe Passage: Covestro asked CCS students to design interiors for private and secure ridesharing vehicles. This Covestro design was inspired by the projects. // Courtesy of Covestro

Autonomous vehicles meant to treat heart attacks and anxiety are some of the latest designs to come out of a partnership between the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and Covestro, a German company that makes polymers for automotive interiors.

The most recent collaboration was the third such venture over four years. Each design challenge has centered on future automotive interiors, and the most recent semester (fall 2019) was more specific to vehicles for health care. In addition to using Covestro’s materials, students were asked to consider durability and functionality, the ability to easily disinfect vehicle interiors, and seating configurations for patients and providers.

“The materials really (took into account) at least three or four of the senses,” says Paul Platte, senior marketing manager, industrial marketing, polycarbonates at Covestro, explaining that students considered everything from how the interiors and materials look to how they feel, affect noise levels, and smell.

Platte says the ideas the students come up with may not yet be possible to create, but the concepts encourage Covestro employees to push the boundaries of the products they make. As for the students, “It gives real-world scenarios to work toward,” says Paul Snyder, chair of transportation design at CCS. “It offers constraints that the students have to solve problems within.”

As part of the exercise, Raymond Gonet Jr., who recently graduated with a degree in transportation design, created an autonomous vehicle focused on cardiac care. In a future real-world scenario, an ambulance would arrive at a patient’s house and could either stay to administer non-emergency care or drive back to the hospital while doctors work on the patient.  He took into account everything from the space needed for cardiac equipment to the height of the vehicle, so paramedics could comfortably stand.

Luke Woolford, another recent graduate of transportation design, drew experiences from his position as a resident assistant to design an autonomous vehicle that would be deployed to someone’s home and offer a calming environment. Individuals could spend time in the vehicle, where, for example, a dedicated lighting system might offer color therapy to help ease stress and anxiety.

After each design exercise is completed, Covestro uses the results to inspire new concepts. The company also shows the prototypes to customers; it highlighted elements of the projects at the Consumer Electronics Show 2020, held in Las Vegas in January.