Volvo thinks fully autonomous cars could replace short-haul air flights in the future.
Over the past few weeks, Volvo has been teasing a mysterious new concept car called the 360c. Based on the teaser images and videos Volvo released, we assumed it was going to be a futuristic, fully-autonomous electric concept car. Turns out the Volvo 360c isn’t just another run-of-the-mill self-driving concept. Yes, it previews Volvo’s vision of a fully autonomous future, but it also imagines how Volvo could transform from a traditional automaker into a transportation service company rivaling airliners, train and bus companies.
“The 360c explores what becomes possible when we remove the human driver, using new freedoms in design and recapturing time – it’s a glimpse at how autonomous drive technology will change the world as we know it. The possibilities are mind-boggling,” said Marten Levenstam, senior vice president of corporate strategy at Volvo Cars. The Volvo 360c is a fully autonomous electric car that “reimagines how people travel, how they engage with friends, family and contacts, and how they can recapture time while travelling”.
Being a Level 5 autonomous vehicle means the 360c doesn’t require any driver input whatsoever. As such, the cabin doesn’t feature traditional two- and three-row seating or a steering wheel. Instead, the cabin can be configured as a mobile bedroom, office, living room or entertainment space. Volvo believes this represents “an attractive travel option" that could rival air, bus and train companies.
For example, the 360c could potentially replace short-haul air flights, since the car's sleeping environment provides “first-class private cabin travel from door to door” without the hassle of going through airport security, queuing, or sitting in cramped airliners. Using the 360c as a mobile office could also make commuting more productive and allow people to live further away from crowded cities. Volvo thinks the 360c could even affect the housing market by increasing “residential freedom”, resulting in reduced pressure on real estate pricing and more affordable home ownership.
Given the safety concerns surrounding self-driving cars, Volvo is also calling for a new universal standard for autonomous cars to communicate with other human-driven cars on the road. The 360c uses a combination of external sounds, colors, visuals and movements to signal what the autonomous car intends to do. “We strongly believe this communication method should be a universal standard, so all road users can communicate easily with any autonomous car, regardless of which maker built it,” said Malin Ekholm, vice president at the Volvo Cars Safety Centre.
“We regard the 360c as a conversation starter, with more ideas and answers to come as we learn more,” Mårten Levenstam said. “Yet we believe fully autonomous drive has the potential to fundamentally change our society in many ways. It will have a profound impact on how people travel, how we design our cities and how we use infrastructure. But we are just one of many stakeholders, so we expect and invite a broad discussion as society learns how to make the most of this revolutionary technology.”