We’ve seen the future, and it’s toaster-shaped. At least, that’s what the Volkswagen Sedric concept car looks like to some. But the unfamiliar shape only hints at its revolutionary nature — because the Sedric is Volkswagen’s vision of a fully autonomous car.
Wave goodbye to car ownership?
Like the idea or loathe it, self-driving cars will soon be with us. They promise to be the biggest shake-up to the automotive industry since…well, ever, actually. Many foresee a rental-based future where fully autonomous cars are summoned to your door, then whisk you to your destination — possibly in a shared cabin — without you having to lift a finger. In fact, in a recent survey of business leaders, 59% believed that “more than half of all car owners today will no longer want to own a car by 2025.”
Volkswagen aren’t about to be caught napping. Revealed at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, the Volkswagen Sedric is their response to an autonomous-vehicle future. And make no mistake, this is far more than a quick dalliance before the engineers get back to their day jobs. Volkswagen have called the Sedric a ‘cross-brand ideas platform‘, indicating that the design is likely to influence models across the entire group. The Sedric is part of their ‘Together – Strategy 2025’ program (there’s that date again!), which they describe as ‘the biggest process of change in the history of the Volkswagen Group’, with the stated aim of becoming ‘one of the leading global providers of sustainable mobility.’
As for what’s on offer in the Sedric — necessarily, many of the details are sketchy at the moment. What we can see is an all-electric vehicle with a flat battery pack positioned between the axles, and the electric motors on the same level. It’s also apparent that full autonomy frees the designers from many traditional constraints. With no driver, cockpit or steering wheel to accommodate, the interior of the Sedric resembles a comfy up-market waiting room. Access will be easy for all, through large lift-up doors. The world outside will be viewed through a huge OLED screen.
According to Volkswagen, Sedric is going to be pretty bright too. VW promise that its vehicle will:
drive the children to school and then take their parents to the office, look independently for a parking space, collects shopping that has been ordered, picks up a visitor from the station and a son from sports training – all at the touch of a button, with voice control or with a smartphone app.
Should car-lovers fear the Sedric?
All of this makes us wonder what to make of the Sedric, and the possible demise of the personally-owned car. Our first response is to throw our arms protectively over our beloved car bonnets. We like owning a car and we like driving, so all this is a wee bit disturbing. But on the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for this dream of the future, especially when it comes to urban environments. Imagine a city in which most of the vehicles are taxi-like, shared and autonomous. Gradually, road accidents become rarities. Transit times plummet. The air gets cleaner. Carbon footprints shrink. And there are simply far fewer cars on the road, which means a more human environment.
Stated like that, the vision starts to sound far more attractive. And Volkswagen are firmly committed to being part of it.