Gothenburg, Sweden - Volvo’s new 360c autonomous concept car tackles many of the challenges and opportunities presented by the driverless future utopia that most carmakers are seeing in their crystal balls these days.
Not only does it present four distinct ‘habitation’ possibilities, but the design study also introduces various measures that could allow autonomous cars to communicate with other drivers on the road.
Look at it this way - even if (or when, as may would insist) car and tech companies manage to produce vehicles that can reliably drive themselves in all traffic conditions, there will still be a long transition period in which these cars will have to share roads with vehicles piloted by humans.
One of the potential challenges here is how these autonomous cars will communicate with fellow human motorists - given that they can’t use hand gestures or eye contact to convey the car’s intentions.
The 360c concept aims to solve this problem with a system of external sounds, colours, movements and visuals which Volvo hopes it could make universal - because it would surely get quite confusing if different car brands used different communication techniques!
“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,” said Volvo Safety Centre Vice President Malin Ekholm.
“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.”
But now for the fun stuff
Volvo’s concept also presents four potential configurations for the interiors of autonomous cars, namely a place to sleep, entertainment space, lounge or office on wheels.
Being Volvo, the company has even considered the safety implications of sleeping on the move and has devised a special ‘safety blanket’ that provides similar protection to a three-point seatbelt.