The headline of this article does sound overly ambitious. Indeed, what can a single automotive manufacturer that makes land-based automobiles do to disrupt the multi-billion-dollar aviation industry? The answer lies in the Volvo 360c Concept.
In simple terms, why fly when you can be driven? Volvo asks the world this question with the 360c concept which is touted to be the future of autonomous mobility. What the Scandinavian maker of cars has done is present to us the view of what could possibly be in store for the car. Today, autonomous cars are not exactly popular due to their rudimentary (relatively) technology. There also have been injuries and even a casualty with the autonomous car being the culprit. This has reduced confidence in the technology, sending manufacturers back to the drawing board to develop a more advanced, safer, and responsible alternative.
Volvo is eagerly researching autonomous driving technology and hopes to have a sophisticated product that can drive itself without human intervention. The Volvo 360c concept is the embodiment of the vision. One could argue that the electric and autonomous car hardly looks like it could disrupt the aviation industry. The answer lies in the concept’s flexibility. With the Volvo 360, if there is no need for a driver to be present at all times, then there is no need for a driving seat or a front row of seats. Additionally, since this is an electric car, more space is opened up previously occupied by the engine and transmission. This space can be, and has been, optimised in the Volvo 360c to create an opulent interior that can serve as a living area, sleeping module, or even a mobile workstation. With this kind of platform, the applications are many.
Coming back to the optimistic headline, it is a well-known fact that getting into an aircraft is not a fast, easy affair. Getting to the airport, checking in, waiting in lines, getting your luggage inspected: it is a rather tedious process. Airliners also tend to feel cramped to some passengers. There is also the automatic risk of potential mechanical failure of the aircraft to contend with.
For those people who prefer to avoid the hassles associated with air travel and do not mind the extra time it takes to travel over land, the Volvo 360c makes perfect sense. It can pick you up and drop you off door-to-door. Inside, you can choose to sleep, work, watch a movie or play games, or just sit around watching the landscape flash by while the 360c quietly ferries you to your destination. And since it is Volvo we are talking about, the interior of the 360c would definitely be a luxurious, well-appointed living space.
The idea of long-distance autonomous travel does sound interesting when the Volvo 360c comes into the picture, doesn’t it? The only hurdle to the future is the capability and intelligence of the autonomy that cars need to achieve. Without disrespecting those hurt by driverless cars, the technology will eventually become sophisticated enough to be applied to serial production cars. And then, the Volvo 360c concept would take off (no pun intended).