“When the Wright brothers took to the skies in 1903, they did not have a clue about what modern air travel would look like,” Mårten Levenstam, Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Volvo Cars says. “We do not know what the future of autonomous drive will hold, but it will have a profound impact on how people travel, how we design our cities and how we use infrastructure.”
We always imagine the technology when it comes to self-driving cars. But have you ever wondered how they might change our society beyond that?
To that end the company has taken the wraps of a very ambitious concept car. The 360c envisions “a world in which you travel long distances without the need for airports. A world in which you can avoid airport security, hours of queuing and waiting, and noisy, cramped airliners.” The idea is that you would instead have the car collect you at home and take you to where you need to go. Of course, this car will not take you all the way to Sydney or New York. But the domestic air travel industry, worth billions of dollars, may raise an eyebrow.
The car itself does away with a steering wheel and engine, allowing passengers to make more use of the space inside. This space can be used as either for sleeping, as an office, a living room, or an entertainment space. It becomes whatever you need from it.
“The business will change in the coming years, and Volvo should lead that change of our industry,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars. “Autonomous drive will allow us to take the next big step in safety, but also open up exciting new business models and allow consumers to spend time in the car doing what they want to do.”
America saw over 740 million people taking domestic flights. Routes such as New York to Washington DC, Houston to Dallas, or Los Angeles to San Diego, are more time consuming by air because of the checking-in, waiting times, and security. For short routes of 300km (188 miles), this, the company hopes, would be a replacement for air travel. The traveller would not need to go through a lengthy and tedious check-in, nor would they have to tell the car whether they have anything to declare.
“Domestic air travel sounds great when you buy your ticket, but it really isn’t. The 360c represents what could be a whole new take on the industry,” said Levenstam. “The sleeping cabin allows you to enjoy premium comfort and peaceful travel through the night and wake up refreshed at your destination. It could enable us to compete with the world’s leading aircraft makers.”
But it is the change that this concept could have on cities and culture that is the most exciting. Our cities today, particularly those in America, are built around the freedom that cars give us.
“Autonomous vehicle concepts have a tendency to become a technology showcase instead of a vision of how people use it,” said Robin Page, Senior Vice President of Design at Volvo Cars. “But Volvo is a human-centric brand. We focus on the daily lives of our customers and how we can make them better. The 360c is the next iteration of this approach.”