Car reveals are, naturally, always a big deal at auto shows.
But a seat?
Yes, while many car makers were introducing their new metal at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Volvo unveiled a seat, a steering wheel and a dash – one it is pitching as a time machine.
Sitting in the seat won’t take you back or ahead in time, but Volvo hopes it will free up time. Concept 26 is an interior design concept showing what Volvo believes drivers will want with autonomous cars in the not-so-distant future. Volvo decided not to go with the swivel seats in futuristic concepts like the Mercedes-Benz F 015 and chose to focus on a single person commuting to work. There isn’t much need to spin the seat around because Volvo says most people don’t want to face backward anyway.
The 26 in the name comes from Volvo research that shows the average American spends 26 minutes driving to work one way. If the concept were made just for Toronto residents it would be called Concept 33.
The concept comes with three mostly self-explanatory modes: drive, create and relax. Drive is for when you want to drive, and yes, Volvo believes there will be times when people want to drive. Create should really be called work as the seat, 25-inch screen and ‘tablet’ in the centre console are positioned for doing work. And relax reclines the seat further so you can catch up on Globe and Mail videos or other favourite shows.
“Our research clearly shows that some people will want to use their commuting time creatively when they have full autonomous drive available,” says Robin Page, vice-president of interior design at Volvo, in a statement. “Others will want to just sit back and relax, watch online media or listen to music.”
While Google is envisioning the future without a steering wheel, Volvo is looking at the near future and its research shows most people don’t feel comfortable in a car without a wheel.
“We have gone to great lengths to understand the challenges and opportunities that autonomous cars will bring to people in coming years,” says Peter Mertens, senior vice-president of research and development at Volvo Car Group, in a statement. “Our flexible approach to engineering and design, enabled by our new Scalable Product Architecture, means that we can readily bring this from concept to reality.”
Volvo is already running a self-driving pilot program in Sweden and real roads, but until now most companies, including Volvo, have been focused on the technology in the car rather than how the occupants will interact with the car while in transport.
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