The Volkswagen Group has revealed a new level five autonomous concept that could replace short-haul flights, the firm thinks.
The Gen.Travel shows how the VW Group envisages travel will advance over the next decade. The car's uniquely shaped cabin can be set up in different ways, such as four seats and a central table for business use, or with the seats combined to create two beds for overnight travel.
The company expects any production version to be used mainly as a long-range taxi service, rather than being owned by individuals.
Some of this research vehicle's unique features could also make their way onto current or near-future production cars, the brand has confirmed. These may include the use of dynamic lighting to stop motion sickness or gullwing doors for easier cabin access.
The Gen.Travel will be battery powered with a range of potentially up to 700 miles based on VW's ambition for it to replace short-haul flights. However, with current tech, the battery required would make the car very heavy. For reference, a BMW iX SUV, fitted with a 105.2kWh battery capable of 380 miles, weighs more than 2.5 tonnes. To combat this, VW says it will use smaller, lighter batteries with potentially less overall range, but adopt the driving method of platooning, where a convoy of fully autonomous cars will travel together in a line to reduce drag and, therefore, increase range.
Nikolai Ardey, head of Volkswagen Group innovation, called the concept "door-to-door travel at a new level", adding: "It shows us what autonomous driving will look like in the future."
Another feature that could make its way into the VW Group range is active suspension eABC (electric Active Body Control). This calculates vertical and lateral movements caused by acceleration, braking and cornering ahead of time and "optimises the driving style and trajectory" to increase comfort within the car. This could be used as part of semi-autonomous level three driving - which could become legal for use on UK motorways "within the next year", according to recent legislation - before full level five makes its way onto our roads.
The Gen.Travel's other unique features include a family-oriented option to configure the front seats to entertain children using augmented reality.
The car will make its world debut at Chantilly Arts and Elegance in France tomorrow.