Volvo has revealed what it thinks the car interior of the future will look like. Recognising that future cars will be driven by humans and computers independently, Volvo has mocked up an interior which includes conventional controls which fold away when the car is driving itself.
Concept 26 - named after the number of minutes people spend on the average commute - has three modes; Drive, Create and Relax. In Drive the car is like any other, giving the driver full control of the steering, gears and pedals.
Create slides out a desk to work on, while Relax reclines the seat and flips around the passenger side of the dashboard to reveal a television screen. Volvo thinks drivers may decide to take longer routes and deliberately spend more time in their car while in these two modes.
Volvo understands that autonomous cars need to be familiar to their occupants - unlike the autonomous pods Google is developing - and so has kept conventional controls for when the driver wants to take the wheel. When the driver wants to hand over control to the car, the steering wheel retracts, the seat reclines, and a large screen emerges from the dashboard.
Beyond the autonomous features of Tesla and BMW, which can navigate motorways themselves but insist drivers lightly touch the steering wheel at all times, the Volvo Concept 26 is intended to drive itself to the extent that the 'driver' can read a book or focus on something else without concentrating on the road ahead or surrounding traffic.
The concept is a part of Volvo's ongoing Drive Me research project, which will see a fleet of fully autonomous cars drive real customers on the roads of Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2017.
Doug Frasher, director of advanced concepts at Volvo, said: "The challenges of this, as we roll into a fully autonomous future, are to evolve this technology in ways that not only make the driving experience as safe as possible, but to enrich it with a much more meaningful experience."