Will This Self-Driving Car Replace Airline Travel?


In a 2016 ABC News poll, 48 percent of Americans said they feel driving is a safer mode of transportation than flying. Perhaps that’s why the folks at Volvo are making a big bet that they can take a bite out of the short-haul flight industry with their new driverless car concept.

The idea is that if a car were as comfortable as, say, first-class flight accommodations – and you can sit back while the car drives for you – many people would find the appeal in taking a car instead of a puddle jumper.

So let’s see if the Volvo 360c would sway you. By eliminating the steering wheel, the vehicle’s spacious interior allows for a coffee table, a desk, and even a reclining seat that mimics a first-class airplane bed. Business Insider describes the set-up as “Ikea-like” and says passengers can enjoy a number of configurations, including sitting around the table or across the back of the car to better maximize the view.

Volvo has also designed a custom airbag that’s specifically configured, almost like a blanket, for a sleeping passenger.

Volvo thinks short-haul airline flights – specifically those of 200 miles or less – require so much time getting to and from the airport. Tack on check-in, security, boarding, and all the rest of the trappings of airline travel, and your time spent simply driving might work out to be about the same.

Volvo’s head of corporate strategy likens the concept to the early Wright Brothers, saying the airplane innovators had no clue what the future of airline travel would look like. "We do not know what the future of autonomous drive will hold,” said Marten Levenstam, “but it will have a profound impact on how people travel, how we design our cities and how we use infrastructure."

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