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Volvo 360c Autonomous Concept

Updated: Sep 27, 2018

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The Volvo 360c is a fully electric connected self-driven engine intended for future ride sharing programs. Perhaps these autonomous cars won’t arrive in the immediate future, but they’ll likely hit the roads before the end of the next decade. Marten Levenstam, Volvo’s chief of product strategy and one of the brightest minds inside Volvo suggests we’re at a pivotal point in the development and deployment of self-driving vehicles: “We always try to look at the past to understand the future. When we invented the car, everyone thought ‘it’s a horse and a carriage with a faster horse. You don’t need to fill it with oats, but you can fill it up with gasoline.’ They could not understand that our cities would be completely redesigned due to the invention of the car.”

The same goes to say about autonomous vehicles. They are more than a car without a steering wheel; they’re the next big evolution that will transform every city’s infrastructure. Levenstam suggested that Volvo can’t push the technology forward on its own. Nevertheless, it desires to collaboratively work with rival automakers funneling towards the same objective, tech firms with software expertise, lawmakers around the world, but more importantly customers to ensure a smooth transition that meets every group’s expectations. “We need to work together in society to make it happen. There are tons of benefits,” he argues. “Self-driving cars will never be 100 per cent safe, that’s very naive, but they have the potential to be much safer than a human driver.”

The SPA2 (Scalable Product Architecture) platform Volvo will launch under the hood of the next-gen's XC90 in 2021, will be equipped for autonomous driving from the beginning.

Henrik Green, the vice president of Volvo’s research and development department, clarified the automaker is committed to building a fully autonomous car on the SPA2 platform during the first half of the next decade. It’s a bit premature to say whether it will borrow styling designs from the 360c or if Volvo will develop it in-house; but it could potentially form a partnership with another firm to lighten development costs.

What’s certain is that it will be electric. “You need to have power for the computer, which you could do with a plug-in hybrid power-train. We are using a plug-in hybrid power-train in the XC90 for our collaboration with Uber we’re seeing is that we don’t perceive there will be market for a car with a combustion engine in a ride-hailing program,” Green explained. This suitably aligns with Volvo’s gradual change towards electrification.

Though a car like the 360c could offer passengers a striking alternative to short distance flying, Levenstam conveyed it might not make sense for Volvo to function its own ride sharing program.

“We sell a lot of cars to taxi companies, but we have never considered starting our own taxi company,” Nothing is off the table yet, but Volvo’s cleverest move may be to continue building solid cars and letting another company like Lyft or Uber concentrate making money by filling them with commuters.

“Things will change. I think it’s a mistake not to discuss what those changes are and not to steer them,” Levenstam concluded.

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