The Volkswagen Group is presenting its vision of the future of mobility in the fully autonomous age with a design concept called Gen.Travel, an efficient and fully electric vehicle that could replace short-haul flights. The concept is the work of the Volkswagen Group rather than any one particular brand within the conglomerate and is part of the 'New Auto' strategy that, Volkswagen says, will define mobility "for generations to come".
Electric power for new vehicle category
It has been designed to serve a multitude of different purposes, with Volkswagen Group calling it an Innovation Experience Vehicle (IEV). The Gen.Travel constitutes a new type of vehicle category for the Group in its premium portfolio between saloon and MPV.
The futuristic appearance of the Gen.Travel allows for all of the electric powertrain to be housed within the floor of the vehicle leaving a spacious and airy interior for passengers. The large doors make ingress and egress as easy as possible, while the 360-degree glass cabin provides a virtually unobstructed view of the world passing by. In parts that glass drops to waist level to maximise outward visibility.
No human driver
Capable of Level 5 autonomous driving, there is no input from a human driver at any stage. Once requested, the Gen.Travel will arrive at a location and the passenger(s) can sit in and relax while they are transported to their desired destination.
Commenting on the debut of the Gen.Travel, Dr. Nikolai Ardey, Head of Volkswagen Group Innovation, said: "In the group-wide Volkswagen Innovation Research department, we are further advancing this idea, showing how our customers will be able to experience mobility in the future - for example, as a service. With Gen.Travel, we can already experience today what will be possible in the near future with innovative technology. Door-to-door travel at a new level. Emission-free and stress-free."
Modular interior, including beds
A modular interior means that the layout can be tailored to suit each journey and specified at the time of booking as part of a mobility-as-a-service offering. Up to four people can travel inside, and in the case of business trips the cabin can be arranged with four comfortable chairs around a centrally-placed table. Volkswagen's designers have created a special dynamic lighting system to help alleviate the risk of kinetosis (motion sickness) while people work or look at screens.
In other modes the Gen.Travel can provide an overnight setup that converts two seats into beds that fold out in the fully-flat position, similar to those found in a business class cabin on an aircraft. Passengers can be held securely and comfortably in place by an innovative restraint system to ensure maximum safety while lying down. The interior lighting works in a way so as to influence the production of melatonin to help passengers fall asleep more easily and wake up naturally.
To ensure that passengers experience the highest possible levels of comfort, the Gen.Travel employs active suspension called eABD (electric Active Body Control) that can calculate lateral and vertical movements resulting from acceleration, braking and cornering ahead of time and optimise the suspension on each corner of the vehicle to compensate.
Current electric vehicle batteries wouldn't be sufficient for the type of long-distance travel that the Volkswagen Group is proposing that the Gen.Travel would be capable of performing, which is why the concept also uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and platooning - whereby fully autonomous vehicles drive in convoys - to increase its potential driving range.
Klaus Zyciora, Head of Volkswagen Group Design, explains: "The Gen.Travel offers us a glimpse of the travel of the future. It shows us what autonomous driving will look like in the future. The Gen.Travel embodies the visionary design of beyond tomorrow for the mobility of tomorrow. Efficient shaping characterises the extremely distinctive design. Thus, in an age of technical perfection and virtually unlimited possibilities, 'form follows function' becomes 'form follows freedom'. The automobile will not only be better, but also more exciting than ever before."
The purpose of the Volkswagen Group Gen.Travel is as a design study to test the concept of mobility-as-a-service, as well as customer response to the idea. It will make its public debut this weekend at the Chantilly Arts & Elegance event near Paris.