Volvo has unveiled its 360c autonomous car concept, which it said represents “a potentially lucrative competitor to short-haul air travel”.
The electric concept car does away with the steering wheel and combustion engine, freeing up space for four potential uses – sleeping, work, living and entertainment.
The group imagines a world where the concept could compete with airlines for domestic air travel, especially on “shorter routes where the distance between origin and destination is around 300 kilometres”, making them “prime candidates for disruption by an alternative mode of travel”.
Volvo pointed to domestic air routes such as New York to Washington DC, Houston to Dallas and Los Angeles to San Diego, which it said 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 Marten 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.”
While clearly still at the concept stage, Volvo said that 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 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.”
Last year Volvo was reported to have signed a non-binding deal with Uber, to provide up to 24,000 self-driving vehicles to the ride share company.