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Autonomous vehicles to compete with airlines - but at what cost?

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Autonomous vehicles to compete with airlines - but at what cost?

Ian Kerr

Volvo wants us to imagine a world in which we travel long distances without the need for airports.

No, this would not involve being shot out of a cannon. Or dematerialising/materialising via Star Trek-style transporters. Which is a shame.

Instead, Volvo is suggesting a future where we'll have our own first-class private cabin that picks us up at home and takes us from door to door.

Volvo Cars has unveiled its new Volvo 360c concept. It's a fully autonomous, fully electric car.

The 360c presents four potential uses of autonomous driving vehicles – a sleeping environment, mobile office, living room and entertainment space. (Photos below.)

Futuristic? Yes. Realistic? Well, it probably depends on your budget!

The car is being pitched as an alternative to short-haul air travel, especially for shorter routes of around 300 kilometres.

Let's take Canberra to Sydney as an example. It's about 300km by road. It's quicker to drive than take the train. It's 55 minutes on an aeroplane, but factor in transfers and airport security and it's comparable to driving.

So as a concept it's not beyond imagination. But would we see passengers abandon the airlines to travel via autonomous car? How many more vehicles would there be on the road?

Fully autonomous and electric travel offers a range of advanced safety and environmental benefits, such as less pollution, less traffic congestion, and related health and lifestyle advantages for those living in cities. It also opens up possibilities for more residential freedom, reduced pressure on real estate pricing and more affordable home ownership.

Well, that's what the press release says. Autonomous vehicles may help with traffic flows, but only if there isn't an increase in the number of vehicles on the road.

Will autonomous passenger vehicles encourage more vehicle use or less? Will passengers choose their car over mass transit? There are obvious implications for the delivery sector.

In the meantime, check out the pretty photos below. And then ponder whether or not you would ever host a party in an autonomous car!

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