Volkswagen has taken the wraps off its latest concept car. Called GEN.TRAVEL, it’s a battery-electric “Level 5” autonomous device that the company touts as an innovative experience vehicle. With its luxurious name, GEN.TRAVEL Mobility offers a service experience for up to four passengers. To hear Volkswagen tell it, the concept could be an alternative to short-haul air travel or the upcoming NightJet high-speed rail service to parts of Europe. Here’s what the company has to say about its innovations.
Meet Volkswagen GEN.TRAVEL
With GEN.TRAVEL, the Volkswagen Group has developed an innovative concept that forms a completely new vehicle category in its premium portfolio between sedan and multi-purpose vehicle. “With its new AUTO strategy, Volkswagen defines mobility for future generations – sustainable and digital,” said Dr. Nikolai Ardei, Head of Volkswagen Group Innovation.
“In the group-wide Volkswagen Innovative Research Unit, we are taking this idea even further by showing our customers how to experience mobility in the future. With GEN.TRAVEL, we can already experience what is possible in the near future with innovative technology. Traveling from home to a new level. Emission-free and stress-free.” .
GEN.TRAVEL drives autonomously and turns the driver into a relaxed passenger who has time for other things: work. Having fun. Entertainment. Family. “GEN.TRAVEL gives us a glimpse of the future of travel,” said Klaus Ziciora, Head of Design, Volkswagen Group. Autonomous driving shows us what the future will look like. GEN.TRAVEL embodies a visionary blueprint for tomorrow’s mobility. The sleek shape features a very unique design. Thus, in an age of technical perfection and almost unlimited possibilities, ‘form follows function’ becomes ‘form follows freedom’. The automobile will not only be better but also more fun than before.
GEN.TRAVEL has a unique, modular interior concept that can be customized for each trip and offers Mobility as a Service. Depending on the configuration, up to four people can be transported in the concept car. For business trips, the conference room offers a relaxed environment with four comfortable seats and a large table in the center of the interior. Flexible lighting creates a pleasant working environment and eliminates the risk of motion sickness. The configuration in the night setup allows two seats to be converted into two beds that can be folded into a fully flat position.
An innovative passenger control system ensures maximum safety even in the sleeping position. The GEN.TRAVEL lighting system influences the production of melatonin to help passengers sleep and wake up naturally. For family trips, GEN.TRAVEL can be configured to keep the kids entertained using the front seats with augmented reality. The interior is light with a natural design. All human-machine interface elements are made using sustainable materials combined with recycled or natural materials.
The future exterior of GEN.TRAVEL is divided into two parts. The transparent, glass case is properly integrated into the lower part, which contains all the technical features. The edge of the window is at waist level, which makes it too low to maximize the outside view. At the same time, passengers do not experience any external influences when they sit in the car. GEN.TRAVEL wing doors facilitate better entry and exit.
For greater comfort, GEN.TRAVEL has active suspension eABC – Electric Active Body Control – which pre-calculates vertical and lateral movements such as acceleration, braking or cornering and optimizes driving style and direction accordingly. Artificial intelligence and platooning – fully autonomous driving in convoys – are used to further enhance long-distance travel.
Well, with that rather breathless introduction, what exactly are we looking at here? The people at Self-blog Say: “This is not what you think a Volkswagen should look like. The concept breaks all ties with the company’s design language and instead adopts a highly futuristic look that would be befitting of a consumer electronics show. In fact, it’s not branded as a Volkswagen in the same way as the GTI or the ID.Buzz. Instead of the VW logo, it wears the ‘Volkswagen Group’ logos on both ends.
Where exactly can this level 5 autonomy come from – many have tried but none have succeeded in achieving full autonomy outside of the closed circuit or geographical area – Self-blog It notes that Volkswagen is collaborating with Argo AI on experimental self-driving technology.
GEN.TRAVEL was unveiled last week at the Chantilly Arts and Elegance fair outside Paris, where Ziciora explained, “As a research vehicle, the purpose of GEN TRAVEL is to test the concept and new functions in response to the customer. Based on the results of the research, the individual features can later be transferred to series vehicles.
Taking of GEN.TRAVEL
Slide a bit further and the GEN.TRAVEL looks like a rendition of the people mover we’ve seen from Tesla and the Cruze Origin. In fact, there isn’t much room for a unique design language in such transportation pods, which are little more than boxes on vehicles.
Editor-in-Chief and CleanTechnica Grand poohbah Zachary Shahan wrote an article that raves about the real-world acceptability of this fully autonomous vehicle, transportation-as-a-service model outside of large metropolitan areas.
I had the opportunity to reflect on this myself this summer while driving to Newport, Rhode Island and traveling along Narragansett Bay. One day I can open my TaaS app and have a four-wheeled horizontal lift on the front of my head take me to a location of my choosing, then pick me up after a day on the water, take me to my chosen BnB for the night, collect me in the morning to go to breakfast at the historic Thames Street Gary Handy, then after I’ve finished my morning omelette to take me home
If you say “thin to none”, go to the head of the room. There is no way any company can make that much profit at what I would consider a reasonable price. People get so carried away with the idea of robotics and TAAS, but the truth is, these are things that will never happen, and if they did, it would be too expensive for a mere mortal to afford.
So, kudos to Volkswagen for thinking outside the box – some would say outside the box. Such daring flights are always needed. But in this lifetime there will be no such vehicles. And even if they were, would there be a compelling business case for them? That seems unlikely.
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