Autonomous vehicles are supposed to make our daily commutes more pleasant and potentially quicker. But Volvo wants to take that idea a step further with its 360c concept vehicle. Unveiled at its Gothenburg, Sweden headquarters, the automaker envisions a world where cars become mobile offices, sleep quarters and even a way to skip the airport for short trips.
"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," Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars said.
The level 5 vehicle (which does not have user accessible controls and drives by itself in all instances), looks a bit like a combination futuristic SUV and minivan. An electric vehicle, the concept's interior is an interchangeable solution to how we interact with our vehicles in the future. Instead of sitting in the typical driver or passenger seat, the 360c can be set up more like a bus or office. Potentially coworkers could commute to the office together and have a meeting on the way with one of the sides of the interior could be used as a presentation display.
Or the vehicle itself could become a person's personal office while piloting itself or while parked. Volvo also sees the 360c as a replacement for short-haul flights. For example trips between New York and Washington, DC or LA and San Francisco could be taken in the vehicle instead of on a plane. With the amount of lead time you need to fly (trip to the airport, security checkpoints, etc) riding in the 360d would actually be quicker and more comfortable.
Of course, removing a substantial amount of people from a plane and putting them in vehicles would result in additional traffic on that route. But if a few individuals decide to stay on earth and ride together, it makes more sense. The 360c would act as a very fancy bus.
Volvo isn't the first company to explore a future where cars are modular entities that can be used in a variety of ways. Toyota unveiled the e-Pallet at CES earlier this year that hits on many of the same ideas that Volvo talked about during the event.
As with any concept vehicle, it's unlikely this exact piece of transportation will ever hit the road, but it does give automakers a chance to explore new ideas while showing the world it's thinking about more than just four wheels and a steering wheel. That's exactly what Volvo is doing here, it's a canvas to explore ideas.
The 360c might not ever end up in your garage, but as transportation continues to evolve at an ever quicker pace, it's important for automakers like Volvo to make sure they're thinking about more than just horsepower and infotainment systems.