According to Volvo, having to go through airport security and waiting several hours to board a noisy, cramped airplane is something the autonomous car of the future will be able to fix.
The automaker’s new 360c concept represents a self-driving fully electric first-class private cabin that can drive you to your destination in complete comfort, regardless of how far away it is. It also doesn’t have a steering wheel, which means even more room for passengers to stretch out.
These types of vehicles could open up new growth markets for Volvo, such as the multi-billion dollar domestic air travel industry.
The 360c concept has four main potential uses – a sleeping environment, mobile office, living room and entertainment space, all of which re-imagine the way people travel.
“The business will change in the coming years, and Volvo should lead that change of our industry,” stated Volvo boss Hakan Samuelsson. “Autonomous drive will allow us to take the next big 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.”
Volvo sees the 360c as a “potentially lucrative competitor” to short-haul air travel, specifically on shorter routes where the distance to your destination is roughly 300 km (186 miles).
In the United States alone, more than 740 million people embarked on domestic flights last year, an industry that’s worth billions of dollars in revenue. Meanwhile, several 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 if you also factor in having to get to the airport, going through security and other various 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 Volvo exec, Marten Levenstam. “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.”
Volvo says that their latest concept doesn’t just re-imagine traveling, but also looks at how people engage with friends and family whenever on the move, “recapturing” time on the road. So in a sense, the 360c represents a first step towards a broad discussion about how autonomous technology will change society, or as Levenstam puts it: “a conversation starter, with more ideas and answers to come as we learn more.”