Without a combustion engine or a steering wheel, Volvo reimagines the car as a short-haul flight replacement.
“In our striving for efficiency, have we lost empathy for the traveler?” These words, from Volvo’s launch video for its new 360c fully autonomous concept car, hit home with me. I fly a lot, so I’m fully familiar with efficient but unsympathetic forms of travel, and Volvo’s idea is to help people like me through the design of its future cars. The Volvo 360c is, like most concepts of our time, all-electric, fully autonomous, and covered by a big sweeping glass dome. What distinguishes it, though, is Volvo’s vision of how it fits into the broader scheme of city infrastructure, short-haul flights, working commutes, and environmental concerns.
Volvo’s product strategy chief Marten Levenstam says this car is “a conversation starter, with more ideas and answers to come as we learn more.” That leaves a lot of specifics yet to be determined, but Volvo does envision four basic usage scenarios for a car like its 360c. It can serve as a mobile bedroom, replacing red-eye flights with a smoother, calmer, quicker, and more environmentally friendly travel option. It can turn your work commute into a much more productive time, offering the connectivity and space of a mobile office. Or it can be your living room and entertainment space. A modular interior with relevant information projected onto the windows makes flexibility the overriding characteristic of the 360c’s functionality.
“People becoming less reliant on proximity to cities is just one example of the impact of removing the burden of unproductive travel time,” says Levenstam. “The 360c driving office makes it viable for people to live at greater distances from crowded cities and use their time both in a more pleasant and more effective way.”
This all looks and sounds a lot like Audi’s 25th Hour project. Discarding combustion engines and steering wheels entirely, these future concepts find their definition in upgrading the experience of car travel from one of a necessary inconvenience to something closer to putting your home environment on wheels. Even the exterior design is similar, with every carmaker apparently convinced that we’ll want large glass canopies and at least a sprinkling of Minority Report inspiration in the shape of the car.
I’m in Gothenburg this week for a deeper dive into the design thinking behind the Volvo 360c, aiming to discern what’s unique about Volvo’s vision and to take a closer look at (plus closeup photos of) the aggressively futuristic car. Volvo has always prided itself on being a leader in car safety, and the way this company fashions its fully autonomous cars is likely to set the benchmark for good design across the industry.
Via The Verge