In 2015, I was arrive to Volvo’s architecture flat to see an aboriginal abstraction for its aboriginal self-driving vehicle. The flat is 50 afar from city Los Angeles, area I live, and absolute abutting to an Amtrak station, so I took the train. From the acknowledgment I got back I arrived, you would accept anticipation I aloof hopped off the hyperloop from Mars.
The Swedish automakers in boondocks to appearance off their assignment were abashed that I had gotten there application transit. In fact, at atomic one artist I talked to, who was declared to be alive on solutions for Southern California’s busline crisis, didn’t alike apperceive that trains served this allotment of the LA region.
My cruise took a little over an hour, and I got there faster than some bodies advancing from added genitalia of LA who got ashore in the 101 freeway’s belled traffic. As I started autograph my commodity on the way home—which I could do because I was benumbed on a train—I looked at the freeway chock-full beneath me and wondered how a self-driving car could possibly advance aloft this accurate journey. A alternation was acutely the best able way to travel.
Three years later, Volvo’s 360c is a absolute car—or, rather, it’s still a concept, but Volvo congenital an absolute car to appearance what it could do. It has a fridge and a bar. And a bore with a faucet area you can besom your teeth. The basement agreement accouterment into altered modes for ball or work… or sleep.
Yes, it’s got a fold-out bed.
“The sleeping berth allows you to adore exceptional abundance and peaceful biking through the night and deathwatch up active at your destination,” Volvo arch architect Mårten Levenstam said in a statement. “It could accredit us to attempt with the world’s arch aircraft makers.”
“Why fly, back you can be driven?” reads the banderole of the Volvo 360c columnist release. “What if, instead, you could booty your own capital clandestine berth that picks you up at home and takes you from aperture to door?”
Volvo’s 360c, it says, is advised to serve cartage who biking “busy calm air routes, such as New York to Washington D.C., Houston to Dallas, and Los Angeles to San Diego.”
Putting abreast the actuality that all those routes are, or are planned to be, affiliated by abuse options, I had one above concern—how could taking, say, 150 bodies off a flight and putting them in 150 single-passenger cars possibly be added efficient?
The Verge’s Vlad Savov, who got to see the car in person, asked Volvo’s Levenstam absolutely this question. “From a sustainability point of view,” said Levenstam, “flying is really, absolutely bad.”
It’s true—flying is bad. But bartering airlines are additionally a anatomy of aggregate mobility. Simply alive those trips to single-passenger cars—even electric cars—doesn’t instantly break the sustainability problem. And for those 150 single-passenger cars to biking the aforementioned ambit as calmly as a alike creates abounding added abrogating ecology impacts.
Let’s attending accurately at that LA to San Diego route—a 120-mile avenue best bodies I apperceive wouldn’t accede aerial anyway—that Volvo wants to agitate with a self-driving car. During morning blitz hour, Google Maps says it will booty 2 hours and 15 account to drive in abstinent cartage from city LA to city San Diego.
There’s additionally a acceptable absolute abuse connection. It’s not high-speed, but it’s direct, cheap, and chargeless of the hassles of traveling by plane. The abutting alternation will booty 2 hours and 45 minutes. That’s not that abundant of a aberration compared to driving. Abacus 150 bodies to this alternation would be easy. With basal account upgrades and arresting prioritization, that cruise could be fabricated alike added efficient; it could be electrified, it could run added frequently as well. Then those cartage could use shared, zero-emission cartage or micromobility to get to their destination.
Now brainstorm 150 added cars on the 5 freeway at the aforementioned time. The cars would add to the cartage that already exists forth the route. The car owners who paid top dollar to abstain cartage would appeal to aggrandize the highway. In fact, appropriate now, California is accomplishing absolutely this—widening abounding freeways throughout the arena in an accomplishment to board added cars, alike though, time and time again, it has been accurate that abacus added lanes creates added traffic.
Even Uber and Lyft accept both accustomed that cars are acutely inefficient means to get around, alms incentives for rides that alpha or end with accessible alteration trips, and accouterment multimodal alternatives for last-mile connections.
In The Atlantic this week, Derek Thompson cautions that we charge to alpha cerebration of self-driving cartage added like highways. “If you anticipate of driverless cars as annihilation added than cars after drivers, you’re not seeing the abounding picture. These will be apartment with wheels,” he warns. “Autonomous cars aren’t aloof cars. They’re infrastructure.”
If Volvo’s 360c is advised to alter brief flights, why are there accurate bedrooms in these cars? Maybe because Volvo doesn’t appetite to alter brief flights. It wants to alter “leading aircraft makers.” It wants to alter airports. It wants to alter aerial cars. It wants added cars active added afar to get “first-class” bodies area they charge to go—in a way that’s fast, safe, secure. Sound familiar?
Unless we fix a accomplished agglomeration of added problems with our busline system, automakers will abide to dive into our cities and adduce new means for bodies to use cars. This will in about-face advance to architecture added car-centric basement to abutment these uses, and we won’t accept any affectionate of achievement for acclamation the gargantuan bulk of amplitude we allot to automobiles, cars’ altitude impacts, or cartage deaths.
Actually, that’s what gets me the best agitated about this concept. Volvo is acclaimed for advancement safety. The automaker is alive carefully with the Swedish government to annihilate cartage deaths as allotment of the country’s Vision Zero program, an action that abounding American cities are alive to apparatus as well. If you go to Sweden, you’ll see absolutely how this is actuality achieved: abacus added alteration options that advice bodies abate their assurance on cars and designing roadways that bigger serve a street’s best accessible users.
I don’t see how the 360c abstraction fits in with Volvo’s assurance claims. Expanding the U.S.’s car basement so “first-class” cartage can drive best distances runs absolutely adverse to Volvo’s own efforts to annihilate cartage deaths. And its auto execs, from a country that prides itself on its fast trains, reliable transit, and safe streets, should be abashed for aggravating to advertise our country on an abstraction of added highways, added driving, and added cars.
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