Volvo Cars' new 360c autonomous concept.
5 September 2018
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.”
With its new 360c autonomous concept, Volvo Cars tackles one of the main challenges around the introduction of autonomous technology and calls for a new, global standard in how autonomous vehicles can safely communicate with all other road users.
Autonomous drive and safety are closely linked and the technology has the potential to deliver the most significant improvement in traffic safety since Volvo Cars invented the three-point safety belt in 1959.
However, autonomous technology will be introduced gradually rather than overnight. As a result, fully autonomous cars will be introduced in a mixed traffic situation where driverless cars without a human driver will share the road with other road users.
In such a traffic situation, it will no longer be possible to make eye contact with and learn about another driver’s intentions, a central element of today’s everyday traffic interaction.
As part of the development of the 360c, Volvo Cars safety engineers decided to tackle this challenge of how to establish a safe means of communication between fully autonomous cars and other road users.
Additionally, the focus was to create a universally applicable standard, so that other road users do not have to consider the make or brand of individual autonomous cars.
The 360c addresses this challenge with a system comprising external sounds, colours, visuals, movements, as well as combinations of these tools, to communicate the vehicle’s intentions to other road users. This means it is at all times clear what the car will do next.
Crucially, while the design of the 360c safety communication technology focuses on making the car indicate its own intentions to other road users, it will never issue directions or instructions to other road users.
“We strongly believe this communication method should be a universal standard, so all road users can communicate easily with any autonomous car, regardless of which maker built it,” said Malin Ekholm, vice president at the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. “But it is also important that we do not instruct others what to do next, in order to avoid potential confusion. Our research shows this is the safest way for fully autonomous cars to communicate with other road users.”
The 360c represents Volvo Cars’ vision for a future of travel that is autonomous, electric, connected and safe – and which may allow Volvo Cars to enter new growth markets.
It 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.
Inside the sleeping environment, Volvo Cars’ safety engineers have also looked at the future of safety technology and how a different passenger positioning could influence safety. A special safety blanket included in the sleeping environment envisions a future restraining system that works just like the three-point safety belt, but is adjusted to people lying down while travelling.
The 360c also envisions a range of new potential customer groups for the company’s business and considers the possible implications for the future of city planning, infrastructure and modern society’s environmental footprint.
Where would you live if you could commute each workday in an autonomous driving, fully-functional, connected, comfortable, mobile office space? What if the service was provided via an on demand subscription basis? Or what if it was provided by one employer yet not another – which company would you work for?
This is a mere glimpse of a myriad of scenarios and questions raised by Volvo Cars’ new Volvo 360c concept, revealed today as part of the company’s vision for the future of travel – autonomous, electric, connected and safe – and which may allow Volvo Cars to enter new growth markets.
The concept environments reflect the potential for change in the fundamental structure of how people live, by transforming unproductive or boring travel time into useful and enjoyable minutes or hours on the road.
“The 360c explores what becomes possible when we remove the human driver, using new freedoms in design and recapturing time – it’s a glimpse at how autonomous drive technology will change the world as we know it. The possibilities are mind-boggling,” said Mårten Levenstam, senior vice president of corporate strategy at Volvo Cars.
Fully autonomous and electric travel offers a range of advanced safety and environmental benefits, such as less pollution, less traffic congestion, and related health and lifestyle advantages for those living in cities. It also opens up possibilities for more residential freedom, reduced pressure on real estate pricing and more affordable home ownership.
“People becoming less reliant on proximity to cities is just one example of the impact of removing the burden of unproductive travel time,” said Mårten Levenstam. “The 360c driving office makes it viable for people to live at greater distances from crowded cities and use their time both in a more pleasant and more effective way.”
The 360c is based on a fully autonomous, electric car without a human driver. It reimagines how people travel, how they engage with friends, family and contacts, and how they can recapture time while travelling.
The concept presents four potential uses of autonomous driving vehicles – a sleeping environment, mobile office, living room and entertainment space - representing an attractive travel option that could rival air, bus and train providers, but with competitive advantages in comfort, convenience and privacy.
With the 360c, Volvo Cars also explores opportunities to expand its business model beyond that of a traditional car manufacturer. The company anticipates strong customer interest from a range of different industries.
One example of this is the 360c’s potential as a lucrative competitor to short-haul air travel, a multi-billion dollar industry comprising airlines, aircraft makers and other service providers. The 360c sleeping environment enables first-class private cabin travel from door to door, without the inconvenience of airport security, queuing, noisy and cramped airliners.
“We regard the 360c as a conversation starter, with more ideas and answers to come as we learn more,” Mårten Levenstam said. “Yet we believe fully autonomous drive has the potential to fundamentally change our society in many ways. It will have a profound impact on how people travel, how we design our cities and how we use infrastructure. But we are just one of many stakeholders, so we expect and invite a broad discussion as society learns how to make the most of this revolutionary technology.”