Volvo aims to disrupt domestic air travel with autonomous cars
Car maker Volvo has unveiled an autonomous car concept it reckons will disrupt the multi-billion dollar domestic air travel industry.
Its new ‘360c concept’ presents a fully autonomous, fully electric car that, although flightless itself, will bring a level of convenience, comfort and safety that undermines the short-haul air travel industry.
Over 740 million travellers took domestic flights in 2017 in the US, said Volvo. Certain short-haul flights, such as New York to Washington DC and Los Angeles to San Diego, are more time-consuming by air than by car, it said, when commuting and security checks are considered.
Shorter domestic air routes, of up to 300 kilometres, are prime candidates for disruption by an alternative mode of travel, it said.
“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 Mårten Levenstam, senior vice president of corporate strategy at Volvo Cars.
The 360 concept does away with a steering wheel and combustion engine, affording a chance to reimagine the cabin area. Volvo’s various mock-ups show the vehicle car as a sleeping environment, mobile office, living room, and entertainment space.
Volvo has also sought to address safety issues with autonomous vehicles, which dispense with eye contact as a means to understand drivers’ intentions. It proposes a system that makes use of external sounds, colours, and movements to communicate with other road users, and make clear the vehicle’s intentions.
But Malin Ekholm, vice president at Volvo’s safety centre, warned “It is important we do not instruct others what to do next, in order to avoid potential confusion. Our research shows this is the safest way for fully autonomous cars to communicate with other road users.”
Meanwhile, Volvo has come up with a “special safety blanket” in the place of seatbelts as a “future restraining system”.
Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive at Volvo Cars, commented: “The business will change in the coming years and Volvo should lead that change of our industry. Autonomous driving will allow us to take the big next 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.”
Robin Page, senior vice president of design at Volvo Cars, said the car concept was not a marketing stunt. “Autonomous vehicle concepts have a tendency to become a technology showcase instead of a vision of how people use it,” he said.
“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.”
Volvo described the 360c as a “conversation starter.”