LOS ANGELES — Early rumors indicated that Volvo would be showing a “Time Machine” concept. The company even showed a clip from “Back to the Future” in a teaser video several weeks ago.
Instead, the Swedish automaker simply took the wraps off the “interior” of its Concept 26 autonomous vehicle. It was basically, a seat, a steering wheel and a center console, that’s it.
“In our research, we found that people are looking for the option to drive when they want to, but also read, consume media, work on their next big idea or simply relax when in autonomous drive,” said Tisha Johnson, senior design director of the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center. “With a reconfigurable interior, we can allow drivers to reclaim their time behind the wheel and make that time meaningful. Volvo Concept 26 provides three interior configurations–Drive, Create and Relax.”
Here’s how it works: To enter autonomous mode, the driver will hold the steering wheel paddles to engage the system. A countdown begins to let the driver know when he needs to re-engage with the car.
In create mode, the steering wheel moves closer to the dashboard in autonomous mode and the seat pushes back. Finally, in relax mode, the seat reclines into a more comfortable position for the driver.
“The Concept 26 seat is a revolutionary design with patented mechanisms that cradle the driver in all modes, providing comfort and confidence that’s not available in any seat currently on the market,” Johnson added. “The user interface is always communicating with the driver about actions the car is going to take such as passing another vehicle. So the driver always feels in control and this is a very important element in establishing trust with the system. The driver has a choice when he can retake control of the car.”
Volvo Cars North America CEO Lex Kerssemakers said the company is in the middle of a turnaround. It has achieved 10 months of sales increases and hopes to sell 100,000 cars in one year as soon as 2017. Volvo’s new manufacturing facility in South Carolina will be up and running by 2018.
“I had a chance to look at their XC90, which is their most recent product,” said Akshay Anand, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “I think if they start producing cars in that vain–amazing interior, a lot of safety features, they are going to start doing well again. I would like them to replicate what they did to the XC90 across their portfolio.”