The Volvo Concept 26 is the Swedish automaker’s take on the future interior for luxury autonomous cars. Designed at Volvo’s Monitoring and Concept Center (VMCC) in California, the Concept 26 provides various interior configurations that focus on making the travel experience more pleasurable, whether you’re driving or not.
Volvo is a company that has always been focused on people and the Concept 26 is no different. While the company built its reputation on safety from the 1960s through to the 80s, Volvo is continuing its mission via the emerging autonomous vehicle scene, specifically in creating luxury interiors that aim to combine today’s needs with emerging trends and technologies to create a new, safer experience for users.
“The challenges of this, as we roll into a fully autonomous future, are to evolve this technology in ways that not only make driving experience as safe as possible but to enrich it with a much more meaningful experience of the time behind the wheel,” says VMCC’s advanced concepts director Doug Frasher.
At the heart of the concept is a patented new seat design that cradles the driver through the transformation between three interior modes: Drive, Create and Relax. Every element of the seat was designed anatomically to ensure optimal ergonomics, and each mode transforms the interior of the car; changing the display of the tablet interface in the center console and offering a foldable tray table and a 25-inch flat-screen monitor that flips up from the passenger side IP.
“We wanted to ensure that the first autonomous cars out there feel like real and something that you recognize rather than being this very futuristic vision,” says Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, VMCC’s general manager. “Once you’re in autonomous driving mode we want you to feel that you always have control of the vehicle.”
Built on Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture platform (the same platform that underpins the new XC90), the Concept 26’s three individual modes offer a unique arrangement for drivers to maximize what they can do with their time while the car is driving autonomously.
The Drive mode, as the name implies, caters to the driver by minimizing distraction; the passenger side IP rotates to reveal a large screen in the Create mode, which allows for a variety of configurations of the seat, table and screens; and the Relax mode is designed to make the best use of time spent in the vehicle, reclining the seat and enabling the vehicle to curate and suggest content to the passengers via the large screen on the IP.
Using these three modes as a baseline, Volvo has created an autonomous drive innovation platform in the Concept 26. The company is working with several partners and looking to establish new relationships to create a space that can adapt to new needs and technologies over time.
Research conducted by Volvo shows that drivers could reclaim a significant amount of time from their daily commute and make that time more meaningful in the right environment. Many drivers in the US could regain an average of 26 minutes for each commute, which translates to several hundred hours per year. In Los Angeles, New York and other large metropolitan areas, the time gained could be considerably more.
“Volvo Concept 26 addresses the notion that driving can still be fun and liberating on the right day and on the right road but that some parts of driving, notably the daily commute in many metro areas, is stressful, frustrating and even broken,” says Tylman-Mikiewicz. “By providing drivers the choice of when to drive or delegate driving, we are able to retain the love and freedom of the open road while fixing the broken commute.”
Autonomous cars are getting hard to ignore. This year alone there have been numerous potential concepts previewed from established car companies and new sector entrants, each showcasing their own vision of the future. As a company that prides itself in putting people at the center of innovation, Volvo is making massive strides by leading the largest consumer conversation about autonomous drive at www.futureofdriving.com, which will help guide the company’s future development in this area.
The Volvo Concept 26 is a compelling vision for the more immediate future, which is fitting considering the company’s intent to provide 100 autonomous cars to customers in Sweden in 2017.