Worried about the stress of regional flights? Take the Volvo 360c instead

Volvo has pulled the sheets off of the 360C, a fully autonomous electric concept car that showcases a new way to go about domestic travel without having to pay the exorbitant amounts attached to airline tickets. The 360c concept is essentially a bedroom on four wheels that Volvo views as a possible alternative to regional flights. It’s not expected to go into production anytime soon, but it does open the door to a new and innovative way of using autonomous driving technology.

Exterior

2018 Volvo 360c
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The Volvo 360c looks like a concept in the sense that it looks like a car that you probably won’t ever see in our lifetime. I suppose it qualifies as a coupe-sedan-hatchback hybrid, though you can be forgiven for thinking that it’s any one of the three.

The 360c doesn’t have a traditional hood, but a large glass canopy that extends from the futuristic-looking fascia all the way to the equally futuristic-looking rear section.

Traditional headlights have also been replaced by what looks to be a long digital display. It still comes with headlights, but they’ve been relegated to the corners of the glass canopy.

The side profile showcases its buggy appearance. It’s also refreshing to see the concept with four wheels. Good to know that traditional design still hasn’t escaped the 360c. Everything else about it, though, looks like a concept lifted straight from a sci-fi movie. The rear section, in particular, has a pair of fins that sit vertically on opposite sides of the concept. It’s unclear what the purpose of these fins are, but seeing as the 360c is a concept that was designed for a future that may not exist, those fins could have a smorgasbord of functions that we may never have any use for.

Overall, the Volvo 360c is a true concept vehicle in every sense of the lingo. Then again, the real fun doesn’t start until we get inside this thing.

Interior

2018 Volvo 360c
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The Volvo 360c’s most important features are found in the interior. Inside this cocoon of modernity and functionality is a living space that can serve a variety of functions. It can be a sleeping cabin in case you want some shut-eye. It can be turned into a mobile office in case you want to spend your time inside more productively. You can even turn it into an entertainment area, a rolling restaurant, a mobile bar, or all of those things rolled into one.

Since it’s an autonomous driving technology, the interior layout of the 360c is far from traditional.

It has no steering wheel, no driver seat, and no dashboard. It does have comfortable seats, one of which can be turned into a bed. It has a touchscreen table that can be used or stowed away. It even has a plethora of compartments that can stow anything from food, linens, champagnes, and even stuffed teddy bears.

Oh, and that glass canopy that hovers over our heads? That doubles as a touchscreen display that shows that can be configured in a number of different ways. Volvo didn’t dive into the details of what the touchscreen display is fully capable of, but it seems that it’s backed by an artificial intelligence assistant similar to Apple’s Siri and Google’s Alexa. You can interact with it and give it instructions on where you need to go before you settle in for a good night’s sleep.

2018 Volvo 360c
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To that end, the 360c offers impressive configuration and customization options that suit a range of different situations, all of which is centered on primary purpose as an alternative to short-haul flights. “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,” Marten Levenstam, Volvo’s senior vice president of corporate strategy, said in a statement.

“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.”

That, in a nutshell, is what the interior of the Volvo 360c is. It’s part hotel, part first-class cabin, part living space, and part everything else. It’s purpose can differ depending on what you want to do while you’re out on the road.

Drivetrain

2018 Volvo 360c
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The Volvo 360c is powered by autonomous driving technology. As for the scope of that technology? That’s the mystery at this point. We do know that given its purpose as a get-you-there driverless vehicle, it’s going to have the highest levels of autonomous driving tech, specifically Level 4 or even Level 5 technology.

As far as functions go, the 360c is more than just an autonomous driving vehicle.

It’s also packed with futuristic technology that includes a system wherein the concept can emit external sounds, display colors and visuals, and make certain movements that allow it to communicate its intentions to other road users.

These functions are incredibly important for self-driving cars, especially those like the 360c that’s touted as a vehicle that can travel great distances without so much as an input from its passengers.

Conclusion

2018 Volvo 360c
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Volvo isn’t the first automaker to showcase a self-driving car that can be configured for specific purposes. But it is the automaker to pitch the idea of challenger air travel on shorter routes with a more ground-based alternative for people who are always on-the-move.

The Volvo 360c Concept offers a fresh alternative, but given the current limitations of road travel these days — traffic being the main scourge — it’s hard to imagine the concept becoming a real thing.

Perhaps Volvo can revisit it in the future when most of the world’s traffic woes are solved or addressed. But for now, the Volvo 360c is nothing but a pipe dream. A good pipe dream, sure, but a pipe dream nevertheless.

  • Leave it
    • * Not happening anytime soon
    • * Tech is still years away from becoming a real thing
    • * Short-haul flights are probably still faster options

Further reading

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Read more Volvo news.

Imagine 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. What if, instead, you could take your own first-class private cabin that picks you up at home and takes you from door to door?

It is this vision for the future of autonomous travel that Volvo Cars reveals today with its new Volvo 360c concept, a holistic view of a future of travel that is autonomous, electric, connected and safe. It could open up new growth markets for Volvo Cars, for example in the multi-billion dollar domestic air travel industry.

The basis of the 360c is a fully autonomous, fully electric car without a human driver. The concept capitalises on the freedom in design afforded by the absence of a steering wheel and a combustion engine, providing the ability to reimagine the traditional placement of passengers in rows of two or three.

The 360c presents four potential uses of autonomous driving vehicles – a sleeping environment, mobile office, living room and entertainment space – which all reimagine the way people travel. It also introduces a proposal for a global standard in how autonomous vehicles can safely communicate with all other road users.

“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 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.”

The 360c represents a potentially lucrative competitor to short-haul air travel, a multi-billion dollar industry comprising airlines, aircraft makers and other service providers. Especially shorter routes where the distance between origin and destination is around 300 kilometres are prime candidates for disruption by an alternative mode of travel.

For example, within the United States over 740 million travellers embarked on domestic flights last year and America’s domestic air travel industry is worth billions of dollars in revenue. Several busy domestic air routes, such as New York to Washington DC, Houston to Dallas and Los Angeles to San Diego, are more time-consuming by air than by car when including things such as travel to the airport, security checks and waiting times.

“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 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.”

Beyond new potential customer groups for Volvo Cars’ business, the 360c also carries implications for the future of travel, city planning, infrastructure and modern society’s environmental footprint. It does not just reimagine how people travel but also looks at how people engage with friends and family while on the move, and how they can recapture time while travelling in the cities of the future.

“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.”

The 360c is a first yet deliberate step towards a broad discussion about the potential for autonomous driving technology to fundamentally change society in many ways.

“When the Wright brothers took to the skies in 1903, they did not have a clue about what modern air travel would look like,” said Mårten Levenstam. “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 regard the 360c as a conversation starter, with more ideas and answers to come as we learn more.”

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