If you need to get somewhere close, say a couple-dozen miles away, most people in the US would choose to drive. Traveling somewhere further, a couple-hundred miles or more? Many, then, would choose to fly. Volvo wants you to re-think that dividing line as you consider its recently unveiled 360c, a driverless pod and a potential alternative to short-haul commercial air travel.
Volvo's 360c is a personal space that can take you where you need to go, completely autonomously, enabling you to work, sleep or just relax along the way. Using all of Volvo's know-how gleaned from itsand its other autonomy research, the car will be able to safely navigate city or rural streets and create an experience that, the company says, will rival the luxury of a private jet -- without all the parking, scheduling and security nightmares.
Volvo says this will allow more people to commute further, potentially easing the crush towards living in cities, but when driving in those cities the 360c will actually be able to interact with pedestrians and other vehicles. Using a series of lights and sounds, the car will indicate its intentions to those around it, signaling in a way far more comprehensive than the humble blinker.
Volvo hopes that this will become a new standard for interaction with autonomous cars. But the company is quick to point out that this is a one-way communication. The car will not read signals like this from other pedestrians or machines in making its own decisions. It will simply signal its own intentions.
The cabin experience looks to be quite compelling as well, featuring innovations like a blanket with an integrated safety harness, allowing you to cozily get a little sleep in while still being safe in a collision. This kind of focus on safety is actually a little rare in driverless pod concepts like this, which most companies just assume will simply never crash.
It's all a compelling concept and one that would certainly make me reconsider that dividing line between driving and flying. However, two major questions remain: when and how much? Volvo has said that a vehicle like this would exist as part of a service, not as something you would purchase. However, the company is giving no indication of how much that service might cost nor exactly when we might be able to subscribe. In other words, don't cancel your frequent flier accounts just yet.