Why fly when you can be driven autonomously in one of these?
Volkswagen will unveil an all-new design study at the Chantilly Arts & Elegance festival near Paris this weekend. Chantilly Arts & Elegance is a relatively new automotive garden party, focusing exclusively on awarding design in several categories.
It is, therefore, the perfect place to unveil what VW calls an entirely new vehicle category. The Gen.Travel slots between the premium sedan and MPV, but it drives autonomously. As in Level 5, no human interaction required.
"With its New Auto strategy, Volkswagen defines the mobility for generations to come - sustainable and digital," says Dr. Nikolai Ardey, Head of Volkswagen Group Innovation. "In the group-wide Volkswagen Innovation Research department, we are further advancing this idea, showing how our customers will be able to experience mobility in the future - for example, as a service."
Service is the key word in the quote above because Gen.Travel is not meant for private ownership, though VW could sell a few thousand to interested parties. Instead, the oddly styled car you see here is a flexible, sustainable Mobility-as-a-Service alternative to short-haul flights.
It's an interesting concept, considering the average length of a flight is roughly 634 miles. Or you could use it on a route not served by any airline, like Orlando to Key West. Whatever the case, you don't have to share a noisy, germ-infested metal tube with 200 other people.
As you can see, the Gen.Travel is divided into two parts; the mechanical bits below and the cockpit on top. The cockpit is deeper than it appears, with the windows starting roughly at waist length.
VW says that the modular interior concept can be customized for each journey. Up to four people can be transported, and the setup depends on what you have in mind for the trip. If you're traveling with business partners, you can have four seats in a desk. A family will travel with the front seats entertaining the kids using augmented reality while the parents relax in the rear. The overnight setup allows the conversion of two seats into two beds that can be folded out to a full-flat position.
It's a fancier version of buying an ID. Buzz and employing a chauffeur so you can sleep in the second row.
Like on a long-haul flight, the light is carefully controlled via a more advanced system than simply opening and shutting the blinds. VW's advanced dynamic lighting can create several interior atmospheres, from a light and airy interior for the family to a lighting setup that increases melatonin production to help you fall asleep and awake naturally. The lighting system is also used to mitigate motion sickness.
There is a human-machine interface made from sustainable materials, but the Gen.Travel is fully autonomous. It has an active suspension that calculates vertical and lateral movements such as acceleration, braking, or cornering ahead of time and optimizes the driving style and trajectory accordingly.
VW did not provide technical details or range claims, but based on the study results, individual features may be transferred to series vehicles later. One feature we find particularly interesting is platooning, which is essentially a fully autonomous convoy of cars that can be used to increase the range for long-distance journeys further.
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