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Autonomous Volvo 360c concept takes on the airliner

05 September 2018 | by Chris Maillard

Volvo has revealed an autonomous concept, with the rather novel theory that it could replace short-haul air travel. The 360c is a streamlined monobox design, of the sort that has become fairly common in AV concepts (see also the Icona Nucleus, Chang An Oshan and so on). 

Its interior, however, is styled more like the first-class sleeping section of a long-haul airliner, with several options as to configuration.

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“The concept capitalises on the freedom in design afforded by the absence of a steering wheel and a combustion engine,” says the company, “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.

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“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. 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, 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.”

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 “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.”

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“Autonomous vehicle concepts have a tendency to become a technology showcase instead of a vision of how people use it,” added Robin Page, Volvo’s Senior Vice President of Design. “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.”

There’s a video below which explains more (and, coincidentally, briefly features our ex-editor Owen). There’s also a gallery of pictures at right, where you can see some of the 360c’s rather elegant detailing.