There’s a lot of stuff happening in the automotive universe this week as the Geneva Auto Show kicks off. There are scads of high priced, high performance concepts and show cars on display, none of which have much to do with ordinary folks who do ordinary things with their cars. Then there is Sedric, the Volkswagen autonomous transportation pod. Elon Musk claims one day self driving cars will be as common as self service elevators. He’s probably right. What he didn’t tell us is that the cars of the future will look like self service elevators, too!
Not to worry says Volkswagen. Sedric is just the company’s first crack at designing a Level 5 fully autonomous vehicle. Later, the design will be tweaked to reflect the personality of each individual division. They can slap a 4 ring logo on the front for Audi or make it look like a 1963 911 for Porschephiles. It’s just a platform for “a new form of individual mobility” and will spawn “children and grandchildren” from the Group’s various brands VW officials say.
Inside, there are no controls. Users will simply tell Sedric where they want to go and it will take them there. It is a personal transportation pod that will be part of a fleet of similar pods. There will be no individual ownership; Sedric is just a cog in a larger autonomous ride hailing system. Inside are four seats and flowers along the back window to help purify the air.
Various information like time, temperature, proposed route, and expected arrival time will be projected on the front windshield. With full connectivity, it could display up to the minute information on your stock portfolio or let you Skype with your Aunt Tillie in Peoria.
Like all good electric vehicles, the battery and motors are mounted below the floor. The doors are cut into the roof to make getting in and our as easy as possible. There is a real wood floor that imparts the feeling of entering an upscale lounge.
The control interface is simply called “The Button” and it appears on your smartphone. Press it and you will receive a notification of when your Sedric will arrive. The phone will help guide people with vision impairments to the vehicle. Put your destination in manually or with voice commands and away you go. All billing will be handled online. Sedric can even go pick up groceries or dry cleaning for you while you attend to more important things.
Is there a place for Sedric in the future? Absolutely. In fact, vehicles that look very similar are already in service in places like Singapore and The Netherlands. A box on wheels is still the most efficient package possible even though it may not have quite the visual appeal of a Corvette or a Mercedes S Class sedan. Autonomous pods are coming and may usher in the day when human drivers are no longer allowed on public roads because they are too much of a safety hazard.