Volvo sees autonomous cars replacing short-haul flights.
Volvo sees autonomous cars replacing short-haul flights.

Would you take a car on auto pilot instead of a plane?

SAY goodbye to security checks, cramped seats and flight delays.

Volvo believes that autonomous cars can shake up the multi-billion dollar short-haul air travel industry.

The Swedish car maker outlined its vision for the future with its 360c autonomous car concept. It says short flights such as the one from Sydney to Canberra could be replaced by autonomous cars. The theory is that by the time you catch a cab to the airport, check in and board, an autonomous car on a freeway of the future could provide a quicker and more stress-free alternative.

The concept explores ideas about autonomous cars could be turned into mobile sleeping cabins similar to business- or first-class, without the complimentary pyjamas of course.

Captain snooze: Volvo 360c autonomous concept doubles as a sleeper cabin.
Captain snooze: Volvo 360c autonomous concept doubles as a sleeper cabin.

Without the steering wheel and driver and passenger seats, there would be scope for more functional spaces for longer trips.

"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," says Marten Levenstam a Volvo executive.

"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."

Overnight travel via an autonomous car equipped with a sleeping cabin could revolutionise travel allowing for greater use of time and resources while reducing congestion.

"The business will change in the coming years, and Volvo should lead that change of our industry," says Volvo's chief Hakan Samuelsson.

Interior design: Driverless cars will alter car cabins.
Interior design: Driverless cars will alter car cabins.

"Autonomous drive will allow us to take the next big 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."

Volvo has envisaged the cabin of autonomous cars to be used as a mobile office, making business travel more accommodating. This concept would allow for workers to live further out of the city centre with travel time to and from work used constructively.

The concept explores how to make driverless cars integrate better with other road users and how to best develop a safe means of communication between autonomous cars and other road users.

Mobile office: The Volvo 360c autonomous concept looks to make use of your daily commute.
Mobile office: The Volvo 360c autonomous concept looks to make use of your daily commute.

During mixed traffic scenarios, when both driverless and human controlled cars are on the road, there will no longer be the ability to make eye contact with all drivers which will remove our ability to judge other motorists' intentions.

Volvo has suggested that a combination of lights, audio sounds and gestures could fill the void of human drivers.

Flashing lights: Volvo 360c concept looks at how driverless cars will communicate with other road users.
Flashing lights: Volvo 360c concept looks at how driverless cars will communicate with 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," says Malin Ekholm the vice president of Volvo's safety division.

"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."

Land Rover recently devised an autonomous concept that had digital eyes on the front of the vehicle that would make eye contact with other motorists and pedestrians to show its intention to stop.



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