This day has been on the horizon for quite some time.
Volkswagen is sticking to its promise to stray away from dirty diesels and up its level of investment into clean technologies. It also wants to ensure that its reach is viable well into the future, and as such the automaker has just presented us with the Volkswagen Sedric Concept, a car that's a literal interpretation of the autonomous pods that futurists and long-term market forecasts have predicted for years. The Sedric is essentially a mobile living room powered by electric motors.
Its name is a combination of the words "self-driving car," and if it manifests its way into a production model that's anything like the concept, it will take mobility as we know it to the next level. While autonomous car sharing networks are predicted to see rise shortly after SAE level 5 autonomy becomes available (where a car can get from A to B without a human driver), Volkswagen envisions it a bit differently than the Uber ride share network that many have been predicting. Instead, the automaker postulates that people will still want to buy their own cars but share them among family and friends. As such, it's designed with upmost flexibility in mind.
The design takes into account multiple types riders like adults and children, those with active lifestyles and more calm ones, and even accounts for riders with disabilities. It's ridership flexibility is afforded by incorporating a large open interior space for luggage, wide openings, and features such as a vibrating button that guides blind riders to the car. With the Sedric's main control being centered on a button, a rider needs only to press it to call the vehicle over for a ride. As a concept that will likely never make it to production, its specifications are vague and most of the car is based off of an idea of the problems electric and autonomous vehicle technology will work to solve. What we do know is that it will have a large two-part door opening.
Upon opening, the car recognizes which user is getting in. Passengers can then talk to Sedric, telling them where to go, asking how much time it'll take to get there, how bad traffic is, and mention whether or not they want to make a stop prior to reaching the destination. The goal is for Sedric to to maximize its utility by being shared among members of a family like an appliance, dropping off one rider at work and later making a stop to drop the kids off at school before going to the old age home to take a disabled grandparent out to do errands and later shuttling the kids to soccer practice after school. To help customers gain confidence in Sedric, Volkswagen has designed the mono box with unique styling.
"The language of design used to create Sedric is friendly and empathetic, and immediately generates spontaneous trust," reads Volkswagen's press release. Inside the experience is closer to that of a lounge rather than a car, with no steering wheel or set of pedals seen anywhere. Sustainability and technology are of paramount importance, with a flat battery pack being placed between the axles and electric motors behind the wheels, a 2+2 seating design with the rear seat being a couch, an air conditioning system with air-purifying plants positioned in front of the rear windscreen, and large window surfaces with a large-resolution OLED screen that can become transparent to allow passengers a view out the front window.
When not being used as a viewing window, the OLED display can double as an entertainment or communication portal. Volkswagen confusingly calls this the first Concept Car from the Volkswagen Group, which is odd since the automaker has previously debuted many concept cars (although the capitalization of the words "Concept Car" may mean this is a new sub brand for autonomous vehicles). Volkswagen predicts that subsequent concepts based off of the Sedric will see the light of day as it thinks up new tailor-made customer experiences and as autonomous technology gains traction. Feast your eyes on the wacky concept and let us know what you think about it in the comments below.