Volvo Concept 26 Is the Rational Approach to the Whole Self-Driving Conundrum

Self-driving vehicles have been getting a lot of flak from all over the place ever since the idea started to creep slowly into the automotive industry only a few years ago. The first to react? Petrolheads and automotive journalists, obviously, who instantly saw their jobs become obsolete.
Volvo Concept 26 12 photos
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But that didn’t stop the trend from evolving, and we are now getting wise enough to realize that there are more ways than one to enjoy a car. And it’s all happening because of projects such as the Volvo Concept 26.

I’m sorry, but try to argue against this kind of interior and autonomous driving, in general, next time you’re crawling at one mph - that is when you’re not completely stuck - through the morning (and evening) traffic. Not so eager to “be in control,” to “enjoy your car,” to “drive” now, are you?

There’s a time for that too, and Volvo is perfectly aware of that. In fact, no carmaker is willing to say “nah, our cars are lousy to drive, it’s best you activate the autopilot mode at all times.” Yet.

The Volvo way of introducing autonomous driving to people who’ve been guiding their vehicles around by themselves their whole lives is the smart choice. It’s just like trying to convince a kid an injection isn’t that bad: you don’t just stick the needle in when he’s not watching; you take your time, explain it won’t hurt that much and that it’s something he has to do. Both ways work, but one of them is a lot more pleasant.

The idea behind the Volvo Concept 26 is actually hidden in its very name. They’ve done such a good job of camouflaging it, though, as it absolutely needs an explanation to make any kind of sense: 26 is the average U.S. daily commute time expressed in minutes. A time that would be better spent doing something else than simply creeping forward ten yards every 30 seconds.

This is where the Volvo philosophy comes in, which says that drivers should be able to choose when they want to enjoy the driving experience and when to delegate the task and free themselves to do something different.

Drive, Create, Relax. These are the three modes Volvo thinks a near-future car should have. “Drive” is pretty self-explanatory. “Create” transforms the interior into a mobile office or workplace. Not exactly the most enjoyable past-time, but if that enables you to leave work early, then so be it. Finally, “Relax” centers on a very comfortable position and a host of entertainment options ranging from the good old book to multimedia content.

Volvo identified time as the one resource the modern individual craves the most, and it’s hard not to agree with them. That’s why Concept 26 is regarded as a means of giving the driver back his time lost during commuting. Volvo stresses the fact that their approach is centered around people and not technology.

One of the key features was to develop an interior that felt very familiar to today’s drivers, something that seemed futuristic, but in a perfectly recognizable way. You look at what other companies are creating and you realize their approach of UFO-like cars with sterile, out-of-this-world interiors isn’t helping the autonomous driving’s case. It’s scaring people away, people who were already scared of letting go of control and relying on technology. When you find yourself in a new place, you like to see familiar faces around, don’t you?

One of the first practical uses of the Concept 26 project that we’re likely to see in future Volvo cars is the new seat design that its designers say was built from scratch, with a new understanding of the human body’s anatomy.

Volvo seems to be taking the long route towards self-driving cars, the small baby steps approach, increment by increment. In the end, though, this might actually be the best way of dealing with this new challenge and the one with the fastest results. We’ll see, but Volvo is definitely a company to keep an eye on.


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