Volkswagen's vision of the future: Gen.Travel
Volkswagen has clearly been indulging in flights of fancy. In between designing some of the most popular cars in the UK, VW has let the designers stretch their imaginations to see what we could all be driving in the next decade or so.
The result is Gen.Travel, and while it may seem a bit fanciful there are a lot of little details that could well appear in production models sooner than you think.
At Chantilly Arts & Elegance near Paris, Volkswagen presented this innovative design study that it says will redefine long-distance mobility in the future.
The all-electric Innovation Experience Vehicle (IEV) is a real prototype that drives autonomously (Level 5, all-singing, all-dancing autonomy too) and is VW's vision of where the car is heading. At the moment it exists as a research vehicle to test new technologies and get customer feedback and based on that feedback individual features could then be transferred into production models.
Klaus Zyciora, Head of Volkswagen Group Design, explains: “The Gen.Travel offers us a glimpse of the travel of the future. 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.”
That sounds like a car designer getting excited about the future of car design, and that's fair enough. But what does it actually mean in the real world?
Gen.Travel features a unique, modular interior concept
It's modular so that the interior can be customised for each journey. Depending on the configuration, up to four people can be transported in the concept vehicle.
There's a conference setup with four comfortable chairs, a central table, and dynamic lighting to create the ideal work environment as the car drives you to your destination.
Or an overnight setup that allows two seats to be converted into fully flat beds so you can sleep and drive. VW has even designed a new restraint system that can keep you safely strapped in even when you're lying flat.
For family trips, the front seats can be configured to entertain the children using augmented reality, and with a transparent cabin there's lots of light and lots of windows to look out of. The edge of the window is at waist level to maximise the view of the outside, but when you lie down to sleep you're below the window level so there's no distractions to disturb your slumber. It's even got wing doors that are not only very cool but they also make it easier to get in and out.
For maximum comfort, VW is also working on an active suspension system that calculates vertical and lateral movements such as acceleration, braking, or cornering ahead of time, and optimises the driving style and cornering lines to smooth out the journey. There's even talk of Artificial intelligence (AI) and platooning – fully autonomous driving in convoys, which would work perfectly on motorways – to further increase the range for long-distance journeys.
Granted, there is always a certain amount of fanciful thinking when it comes to cars of the future but huge companies like VW don't spend this much time and money unless something is going to come out of it.
Don't expect to be travelling around in a big glass bubble that drives itself just yet. Equally, don't be surprised if some of the ideas that come out of the Gen.Travel concept start appearing on other production models that you will be leasing in the next couple of years.
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