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Volvo has unveiled its concept for fully autonomous travel with the 360c and it has done it in the most Volvo of ways: by talking about safety.
Along with being a mobile office, a bedroom, and living room, the 360c concept will also use lights, sounds, and movements to communicate with humans on the road.
Volvo argues that while it and other automakers work on driverless technology, there will be a crossover period when autonomous cars share the road with human drivers. Even in an ideal scenario for autonomous vehicles, the cars will still share the city with pedestrians and cyclists. So it has developed a system of swelling sounds and light displays to effectively communicate its cars intentions with people around it and it believes that it should be universal.
“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 Malin Ekholm, vice president at the Volvo Cars Safety Centre, in a statement. “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.”
Volvo believes that this will effectively stand in for human-to-human communications like: the wave-you-in, the nod, the hand of apology, or the finger (okay, probably not the finger) as a way to solve little issues of uncertain priority and intention.
Volvo says that its cars won’t issue commands, just express its intention, but that this should help solve the problem of the inscrutable machine.
Volvo is also hailing its 360c as a first class cabin on wheels arguing that it could be an alternative to short haul flights. A particularly European problem, domestic flights that are shorter than the security line that you have to stand could be avoided altogether if you got into an autonomous car (or, you know, a regular car), too.
The concept also shows a person lounging in a bed, several others working, hosting a meeting, and drinking champagne.
“We regard the 360c as a conversation starter, with more ideas and answers to come as we learn more,” Mårten Levenstam said. “Yet we believe fully autonomous drive has the potential to fundamentally change our society in many ways. It will have a profound impact on how people travel, how we design our cities and how we use infrastructure. But we are just one of many stakeholders, so we expect and invite a broad discussion as society learns how to make the most of this revolutionary technology.”