Automotive

Volvo imagines its autonomous 360c concept car taking over for short-haul flights

Volvo imagines its autonomous ...
From lounge chair to bed
From lounge chair to bed
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Volvo's simple 360c interior includes storage for things like clothing, blankets and pillows
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Volvo's simple 360c interior includes storage for things like clothing, blankets and pillows
If you're going to replace air travel, you'll want to serve a meal
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If you're going to replace air travel, you'll want to serve a meal
Volvo looks at the future of autonomous driving with the 360c concept
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Volvo looks at the future of autonomous driving with the 360c concept
A single-person lounge keeps things simple but roomy
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A single-person lounge keeps things simple but roomy
Volvo 360c single-person lounge storage area
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Volvo 360c single-person lounge storage area
From lounge chair to bed
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From lounge chair to bed
Volvo 360c single-person sleeper configuration
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Volvo 360c single-person sleeper configuration
Digital surfaces provide productivity and entertainment solutions
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Digital surfaces provide productivity and entertainment solutions
Multi-person configuration
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Multi-person configuration
Volvo's multi-person 360c configuration can be used for business meetings ... 
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Volvo's multi-person 360c configuration can be used for business meetings ... 
or personal affairs
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or personal affairs
With no need or ability to drive the car, there's no reason not to pop some champagne
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With no need or ability to drive the car, there's no reason not to pop some champagne
The Volvo 360 uses various visual, color, audio and motion signals to share its intentions with human drivers and other road users
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The Volvo 360 uses various visual, color, audio and motion signals to share its intentions with human drivers and other road users
Fins add a little distinctiveness over other autonomous vehicle pods
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Fins add a little distinctiveness over other autonomous vehicle pods
Volvo reveals the 360c concept
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Volvo reveals the 360c concept
Volvo reveals the 360c concept
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Volvo reveals the 360c concept
Volvo reveals the 360c concept
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Volvo reveals the 360c concept
A large entry for easy ingress/egress
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A large entry for easy ingress/egress
Unlike a short-haul flight, the Volvo 360c takes you from door to door
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Unlike a short-haul flight, the Volvo 360c takes you from door to door
The Volvo 360c arrives when you need it
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The Volvo 360c arrives when you need it
A futuristic hardware suite provides full autonomy and communicates with humans and machines
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A futuristic hardware suite provides full autonomy and communicates with humans and machines
Volvo 360c concept
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Volvo 360c concept
View gallery - 22 images

Volvo introduced the 360c concept on Wednesday, opening up a new exploration of the autonomous driving future. More than just a vehicle, Volvo is exploring a new travel paradigm, in which fully autonomous vehicles replace short-distance flights, providing a quicker, more relaxing means of jumping from Point A to B. Volvo's concept helps passengers pass the time with sleep, work, entertainment and lounge configurations. Forget arriving hours in advance and fighting long lines to board cramped airplanes, the 360c may just be the ticket to a brighter future for city-to-city travel.

"Autonomous vehicle concepts have a tendency to become a technology showcase instead of a vision of how people use it," explains Robin Page, Volvo Cars' senior vice president of design. "But Volvo is a human-centric brand. We focus on the daily lives of our customers and how we can make them better."

Volvo reveals the 360c concept
Volvo reveals the 360c concept

Toward that end, the 360c presents a vision that rethinks how ground transportation might be used within an autonomous infrastructure. The car could serve as a safe, comfortable first class cabin, providing a hassle-free way of making quick commutes often left to aircraft. Think Los Angeles to San Diego or New York to Washington, D.C.

Volvo defines the targeted routes as roughly 186 miles (300 km) from point to point and says that such routes actually become more time-consuming by air than by car once you factor in traveling to and from the airport, going through security and boarding procedures, deplaning, etc.

Volvo's multi-person 360c configuration can be used for business meetings ... 
Volvo's multi-person 360c configuration can be used for business meetings ... 

As Page makes clear, the 360c's focus is end-use and not technology, so Volvo doesn't break down specs for the car, outside of identifying it as electric and fully autonomous with no hardware at all for human driving. The roomy, pod-like car opens up with a large curbside gullwing door and offers several configuration possibilities inside, including a multi-passenger meeting/entertainment space and a single-person recliner/sleeper layout.

"The sleeping cabin allows you to enjoy premium comfort and peaceful travel through the night and wake up refreshed at your destination," says Mårten Levenstam, senior vice president of corporate strategy at Volvo Cars. "It could enable us to compete with the world's leading aircraft makers."

Volvo 360c single-person sleeper configuration
Volvo 360c single-person sleeper configuration

Volvo recognizes that the day fully autonomous vehicles replace all vehicles on the road, let alone airplanes, remains a long ways off. In the interim, it's focusing on how a 360c-style autonomous vehicle could communicate within a mixed driving environment of autonomous and human-driven vehicles.

In addition to vehicle-to-X communications, the 360c uses a mix of sounds, visuals and movements to share its intentions with human drivers and other road users. Volvo hopes to see a similar system implemented universally across the auto industry.

A futuristic hardware suite provides full autonomy and communicates with humans and machines
A futuristic hardware suite provides full autonomy and communicates with humans and machines

Volvo concludes that the 360c is a mere starter for a conversation about the doors that autonomous driving might open up in the future. The company intends to advance that conversation as technology and infrastructure continue to evolve.

We're not sure that autonomous vehicles will ever go on to replace short-haul flights, or if alternatives like hyperloops, flying cars and city-hopping, self-piloted aircraft will develop more quickly. Volvo's idea is an interesting one to think about in the present, however. Would you choose a self-driving car over the contemporary reality of a short-haul flight? Over potential future alternatives like hyperloops and drone taxis?

Source: Volvo Cars

View gallery - 22 images
14 comments
El Bonko
This is exactly why I'm excited about self-driving cars. They could potentially take the hassle out of travel. Just get in the car and relax until you arrive.
Doodah
Also, think of all the unused space of our roads and highway system at night. I took a night train in Thailand and it was wonderful. Slept like a baby and woke up in the next town.
jerryd
Even more so living in a slightly larger one as rents cost so much in cities, it'll be cheaper just to live in the SDC. I believe it'll be viable for 300 miles in the day and 500 miles overnight sleeping.
guzmanchinky
Wonderful! I would love this. Is there a way to keep someone safe in a crash if they are lying down? Can you imagine an RV (large or small) being self driving? The possibilities are endless...
paul314
This isn't just about the longer drives. It's about lots of shorter intercity travel not well served by mass transit. Arrive at/near your destination comfortable and having gotten some stuff done rather than cranky and exhausted. I hope Volvo or someone else engineers it so it can do well in winter.
vqsteve
Can't wait for a self-driving RV . . . wake me when we get to Yellowstone!
Kristianna Thomas
It is eighteen years into the Twenty-first century and in all respects we are still living in the past. Our cities are a mixture of eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century housing and transportation that is over one hundred years old. Planes, trains and automobiles in this country has not fundamentally changed since its conception, we just have more crowded roadways, airways and waterways. So, how is this going to be the game changer that everyone is hoping for, and who will be able to afford this new form of technology? Will it make our lives that much better, or will it produce a whole new set of problems? There is a lot of talk about the middle class and what makes a person middle class, this technology is geared towards the "middle class", at a time of the decline of the middle (working) class. The auto industry relies on the vibrancy of the working class, and even Henry Ford knew this to be the case. He even stated that for the industry to grow, workers have to be able to buy back what they produced. The [real] middle class (shop owners, and the vast middle men in the chain of industrial production) and the working class which make up the bulk of class society, is where the wealth of a nation lies. The auto industry outsourced its production line to union free and low wage countries to raise their bottom line, now that the vast working class in this country has shrunk to nearly nada, who are they going to sell these futuristic cars to? The falling rate of profits. I like the cars but I know I will not be able to afford it.
PAV
The San Diego to LA route is not really a good example. If you drive it you can take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 3.5 hours depending on traffic. A flight takes 45 minutes. Typically you are going to a connecting flight in LA, so starting in San Diego on a plane makes more sense. I do like the concept of an autonomous road travel, but I would like to see a semi trailer or a bus that takes you to your destination, you get to sight see on the way, and take your hotel with you. Sorry of a cruise ship, but on land.
paul92
I am wondering how a completely autonomous system of vehicles will handle parking when you arrive near your destination. Will there be large parking lots/structures that you would then de-car from (and then use other methods to reach the end destination ) ? How will individual vehicles compete for city parking spaces? Who gets priority and how? Will vehicles communicate with each other to decide? If the area of your destination is full will your vehicle circle the block endlessly until a space opens up? Or will there be a centralized , universal co-ordination system much like airplanes use. ( once you punch in your destination would the system reserve a space at your destination at the time of your estimated arrival?) How many redundancies would a universal control system need to avoid total chaos when systems fail? How do you establish enough sensors along the roadway so that if a highway bridge fails, vehicles don't go over the end like Lemmings? I hope there are people out there in the industry who are considering such things.
christopher
Where's the toilet?