Vokswagen boss Matthias Mueller presents Sedric at Geneva. Picture: Uli Deck / AP
Vokswagen boss Matthias Mueller presents Sedric at Geneva. Picture: Uli Deck / AP

Geneva Motor Show - Looking well beyond its past problems, Volkswagen is projecting off into the future with this self-driving concept car, featuring technologies that could someday work their way into its upmarket Audi, Bentley or Porsche brands.

After a cheeky video riffing off Star Trek, Harry Potter and other pop-culture icons, Volkswagen boss Matthias Mueller presented the group’s first self- driving car (hence the name - Sedric) on Monday evening ahead of the first Geneva motor show media day.

In the future, he said, a mobility concept based on fully autonomous, intensively used vehicles will take up less space, consume less energy, and will be safer and more sustainable at the same time, while providing tailor-made transport for adults and children, retirees and people with physical disabilities, city people who do not have their own car or a driving license, and visitors to a new city who need to get from A to B.

With the Volkswagen family set to roll out 60 new vehicles in 2017, Mueller said Sedric was part of a study aiming to show "how a new, integrated mobility system of the future could function".

Imagine this

Sedric is fully electric, connected and autonomous, and picks up passengers at the touch of a button. It’s the first concept car from the group, rather than one of its brands, which is partly why it has its own name, and the first to be designed from scratch for level 5 of autonomous driving – in other words it doesn’t need a human driver at all and it looks like futuristic travel pod inside, with no steering wheel, pedals or controls.

The car’s battery lies flat between the axles, with a compact electric motor at the level of the wheels, and ancillary systems - aircon and the computer for the self-driving system - in the compact overhangs at front and rear.

The two rear seats form a couch, while the air-conditioning system uses genuinely green technology - plants in a ‘window box’ in front of the rear windscreen help its bamboo charcoals air filters to scrub unpleasant smells from the air inside the car.

The Kiss Principle

The brief for the control concept was clear: keep it simple. The whole system is based on a fob with just one button, and a ring with coloured signals. Just push the button and a car will come and fetch you - anywhere in the world where the Sedric service operates. The ring’s colour-coded signals will tell you how long you have to wait, and its vibration function guides people with impaired vision to the car when it arrives.

Sedric recognises you as a subscriber to the service and its two-part door opens wide and high, so it’s easy to get in, even with luggage or shopping. Then you talk to the car as you would talk to a human driver, telling it where you want to go, and it can tell you how long it’ll take, and what the traffic is like on your route.

The windscreen is also a big organic LED display so, while the car does the driving, you can surf the net, watch videos, or just close your eyes and relax.A member of the family

But Volkswagen recognises that there will always be be people who want to own their own cars, so they can leave stuff - such as books, umbrellas and spare clothes - safely in them while they’re not using them.

So, if you buy a Sedric, it won’t respond to anyone’s fob signals but yours and those of your family - but it can take the kids to school and the their parents to the office, collect the shopping you’ve ordered online and fetch your mother-in-law from the airport (are you sure you want one?) at the touch of a button, via voice control or using a smartphone app.

The plan is that Sedric will be the group’s ideas platform for autonomous driving, providing the basis for new forms of individual mobility, and as a ‘parent’ for future autonomous concepts specific to the various brands.

Volkswagen says it plans to launch more than 30 purely battery-powered vehicles by 2025, and "battery technology, autonomous driving and artificial intelligence will become new core competences" for VW.


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