Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Design Director Andre Hudson Talks About His Latest Electric Vehicle Masterpiece (Part Two of Two)

Design director Andre Hudson with the Indi One all-electric vehicle. (photo credit IndiEV)

JeffCars.com is continuing part-two of our conversation with Andre Hudson, who is the design director for the California-based electric vehicle start-up company IndiEV. In case you missed part one of our conversation, as Hudson discussed what drew him to the company and the mark he made it in the automotive history books with the design of the stylish 2011 Hyundai Sonata and the launch of the Genesis luxury brand, click here.

Part 2 of our conversation with Andre Hudson.....
Andre, when behind the wheel, occupants will notice a series of computer screens. Tell us what inspired the use of the computer screens, which takes the place of the traditional instrument panel, navigation system, audio system and the like?

We have integrated a digital cluster into the instrument panel for the main driver information functions. As you look through the slightly squared off steering wheel, the cluster is framed nicely within that wheel graphic. The vehicle controls and multi-media interface is central and on a 15-inch display screen. Right next to that is an additional 15-inch display to allow the front passenger access to the VIC (Vehicle Information Center) directly. 

We wanted to give the front passenger the ability to access social media, the Internet and desktop-like applications in a focused interface. When seated in the IndiOne, both the driver and passenger are recognized with facial recognition and are presented with their personal desktops. When a front passenger is not accessing the computer directly, their display screen becomes a static graphic extension of what is on the central vehicle control interface.

What safety measures have been enacted to avoid driver distractions?

Driver distraction is a huge concern of ours. So, for most of our gaming scenarios, the audio for the passengers is contained within a headset. When the vehicle is parked, users can take full advantage of the 14-speaker premium audio set-up within the vehicle.

Tell us about the seats. 

The Indi One comfortably seats five adults. The front seats are power operated, while the rear seating position allows for versatility. The partial reclining split rear seats are capable of sliding and folding too.

And as for families with small kids, we wanted parents to be able to accommodate a rear-facing child seat easily, while allowing them to bring their small child within arm's reach by sliding the rear seat forward, when seated in the front seats (just like in some minivans). Moreover, when the sliding rear seat is combined with the forward-facing rear seat camera, this allows the front seat occupants to see the child’s face on the central display screen. Thankfully, all of these elements combine allows parents to have a mobile environment that helps ease some of the stress would normally feel, especially when they have an upset infant in the car.

Also, by having the versatility to slide one or both rear seats forward, this can increase the rear cargo area substantially when needed.

Let's talk about the panoramic roof. Will it be stationary, or power operated? Will a sliding cover for seasonal changes be offered? 

All trim levels will come with a fixed UV tinted glass panel roof. An optional manual sunshade can be fitted if more complete solar blockage is requiredFor rear passengers, the overall view is greatly expanded (visually) with this roof… literally connecting you to the outside world.

So Andre, if I leave home without my smartphone and need to take some photos, while on a scenic drive, is the car capable of taking a photo? 

We like to think of the INDI ONE as an extension of your smartphone’s capabilities. With the onboard hardware suite of computer and cameras, you will be able to document your life while on the move. Voice commands direct the VIC (Vehicle Information Center) to take photos or video -- utilizing one or several of the integrated cameras both inside and outside of the vehicle. For instance, at any time, you could use the following command to direct VIC to, “capture 10 minutes video forward” as you cruise through Yosemite (National Park). Or, you could command VIC, "please capture the next 5 minutes of front and rear passengers,” as you and the kids sing their favorite new top 40 hit. The same could be done with still photography both inside and out of the vehicle.

Wow that’s amazing! VIC sounds like Alexia. Andre, what if I am a traveling consultant, how can I turn this car into a mobile office on wheels? 

Again, with the built-in capabilities of the Windows computer and onboard suite of audio and video hardware, your office is truly wherever you are.  From the driver to the front seat passenger to even the rear seat occupants, you can take advantage of having the power and connectivity to work from the INDI ONE.

Ironically, we started work on the INDI ONE before Covid took hold of the world, but some of the same scenarios we imagined pertaining to how people could be productive from their car, became a necessity during the pandemic. People had to grab a coffee and return to their car to be on a conference call or try and escape the confines of their home to the vehicle for some privacy.

Furthermore, in congested urban environments, where space is at a premium, sometimes ‘the car’ is their only place of solitude. With the INDI ONE you can not only take advantage of the onboard computer or 15-inch displays, you could configure either the front or rear passenger seat as an office. Both positions offer reclining seating and wireless keyboard and mouse connections to the VIC. Don’t forget, with the onboard cameras and audio capabilities, video conferences from inside your vehicle will be easier than ever.

What if I have kids or teens traveling with me, what benefits does this car offer? 

Certainly, the gaming capabilities will please with the Intel core i-9 processor and Nvidia RTX graphic set-up, the tablet or VR AAA gaming will be amazing, but also the hardware to allow for instant and real-time social connectivity will be highly appreciated too. As noted earlier, we’ve also kept young families with new little ones in mind with forward sliding rear seats that allow you to bring that newborn or toddler within arm's reach when they are in the frustrating rear-facing child seat that doesn’t allow you to see their faces. Speaking of that, our on-board forward facing rear camera casts an intimate view of your infant on the front display when requested.

What specialized trims do you envision for the model? 

The INDI ONE will be offered with such amazing features as …. AWD (all-wheel drive), a panoramic sunroof, a LED lighting system, integrated cool box (for drinks) and sliding and reclining rear seats. At launch, we will offer a cloth and leather interior. The suede we profiled in the prototype will not be available initially.

Do you expect the prototype to change when it actually goes into production? 

Our prototype actually represents the production car development nearly in its entirety. We wanted to show the world exactly what to expect when the production run begins.

How does this vehicle compare to Ford’s Mustang Mach-E? 

Size wise, we are very comparable to the Mach-E and the Tesla Model Y. All three of these products offer AWD, hatchback functionality and a higher seating position. Though the Model Y does offer reclining rear seats as well, only the INDI ONE has sliding rear seats that create greater versatility in cargo and people configurations. From the digital perspective, the INDI ONE is in league of its own (when compared to the competition).

What’s the driving range? 

Our AWD powertrain and 95kWh battery will enable a range just over 300 miles.

And the horsepower?


Is there anything that makes your EV battery standout from the competition in terms of durability? 

The double-stacked module assembly is designed for light weight and high density, ease of automated assembly, ease of packaging, and versatility in its configurations.

And when should we expect to see the vehicle arrive in the U.S.?  

We are targeting pre-production runs beginning the first quarter of 2023.

The Ford Mach’s E-starting price is around $42,000. What will be your starting price? 

We will be right there with the Mach E and Tesla's Model Y.

Ok I have to ask, as design director, what is your vision for the brand’s portfolio? Crossovers only? Cars? Trucks? Sports cars?  Talk to us, if you can.

IndiEV’s future portfolio will expand. We have already begun studies to utilize several of our systems already engineered, into some exciting new variants. I can’t say too much, but the future of EV’s and the power of integrated high-powered processors creates unique opportunities both in the private and commercial sectors.

How long have you and your team been working on this project? 

The INDI ONE has been under development for three years.

How did the pandemic, if any at all, impact or affect the team's design collaboration? 

In our production program development not too much. We were already collaborating with engineering partners around the globe for our various commodities, which meant that we were living on the video conferences at all hours of the day. It was more taxing, as managers though, because we couldn’t walk around and engage with the staff throughout the day ... so that required non-stop messaging, calls and video meetings. I know for myself, that meant 12 to 15 hours days. I rarely left my home office chair. 

What were the upsides to working virtually, in terms of designing this vehicle?

I think it has been shown that remote or virtual work can be beneficial because you have to be focused during meetings on the task and you get hours of your day back that were spent in the car. The drawback is you do miss out on those amazing spontaneous conversations that you have with the team when you are together in the same space.

How do you feel as the design director to finally see your baby on display in Beverly Hills for two days in October for journalists and media influencers to view? 

As I’ve said before, sometimes you are so caught-up in being such a small team trying to do big things that your mental capacity and physical time is so consumed. This moment of sharing this first prototype-build allows you to actually sit back for a moment and realize that great progress has actually been made. Sharing the ideas behind the project with people like yourself is great and rewarding as well.

Personally, for you, how important is it to have a car that you design standout in not only the segment, in the industry? As you know, the Sonata that you designed for Hyundai was recognized by Motor Trends magazine as one of the top game changing vehicles in the industry last decade. What would like the automotive history books to say about this vehicle, when we look back at this in about 10 to 15 years or so? 

Personally, I want every product I work on to have some positive effect on the world we live. As far as what we are doing at IndiEV, we hope to be remembered as one of the first companies that understood that the future of the vehicle, particularly the EV, would not be defined by its horsepower or 0 to 60 times, but rather by its digital processing power and the social experiences that it enables for its user.

As always, as the editor of JeffCars.com, thanks again brother for taking time to talk to my audience! I can't wait to get behind the wheel.

Brother, thank you. It’s always an honor.

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