Get ready for a hot take: Air travel sucks. Whether it's the seemingly endless security theater, cramped and crowded cabins, flight delays or just the time it takes to get from your car to the gate, it's not fun. A flight may only take three hours once it gets moving, but add up all the hours you need before and afterward, and it can easily take up the whole day. Volvo knows air travel can be a nightmare, and its future alternative is the 360c concept.
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Yes, trains and buses already exist. But neither option is autonomous yet, and neither one is particularly luxurious unless you own your own private bus and hire a driver, John Madden-style. But until the country decides to invest in more rail infrastructure — or Hyperloop travel actually materializes — it's mostly planes and cars.
Volvo's idea, then, is to take a first-class airline seat (a real first-class seat, like the Emirates First Class Suite) and turn it into a car. The nitty-gritty: The 360c would be an all-electric, fully autonomous vehicle. Without need for a driver, the cabin can be configured in a variety of ways, from a bedroom to a living room to an office or even a miniature theater. Or maybe just more rows of seats — you know, like a bus.
Volvo's theory is that if a car can show up at your door and drive you to the same place you'd normally fly to, and do it in less time than the entire flight experience takes, wouldn't more people do that — especially if you could sleep the whole time without a stranger next to you or work without having to turn off your devices at any point?
Volvo isn't targeting every domestic flight, particularly in a country as large as the U.S. Specific high-traffic routes like New York to Washington, D.C., Houston to Dallas and San Diego to Los Angeles are prime examples of trips where a car ride is shorter than the entire process of flying.
Few real details about the 360c exist because the 360c probably never will. Volvo acknowledges it's just a "conversation starter, with more ideas and answers to come." One conversation Volvo has started with the 360c: How can an autonomous car communicate its intentions to other vehicles or pedestrians? Beyond the obvious turn signals and brakelights, Volvo believes the solution can be a combination of audible and visual cues. Check them out in the video below.
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