Swedish luxury carmaker Volvo has announced its new 360c concept this week, and is billing it, not as an electric car, but as a mobile living and workplace.
“Where would you live if you could commute each workday in an autonomous driving, fully-functional, connected, comfortable, mobile office space?” Volvo asks.
“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?”
Intended to open up further growth markets for Volvo, the design concept portrays an all-electric, autonomous vehicle that in addition to addressing these questions, also answers concerns about quality of life such as safety, pollution and congestion.
“People becoming less reliant on proximity to cities is just one example of the impact of removing the burden of unproductive travel time,” says Mårten Levenstam, chief strategist at Volvo Car Group.
“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 concept offers four purposes: a sleeping environment, a mobile office, a living room and an entertainment room.
While the deftly designed exterior displays simple, geometric lines, the interior has all the look of a first class capsule borrowed from a high-end airliner.
In ‘sleeping car mode’, a special safety blanket is used as a restraint system that works just like the three-point belt, but is adapted to lying while driving.
This begs another question: at what point will people trust Level 5 autonomy – where self-driving cars take all the responsibility and allow their occupants to be so sedate as to fall asleep?
Volvo says it is recognising a change that is coming, and if nothing else the 360c concept will certainly get people talking.
“We regard the 360c as a conversation starter, with more ideas and answers to come as we learn more,” says Levenstam.
“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.”
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.