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.