Many automakers dream of self-driving cars that are effectively lounges on wheels, but VW is taking things one step further. The brand has unveiled a Gen.Travel “design study” EV that it hopes could replace short flights. The four-person travel pod would be completely autonomous (that is, SAE Level 5) and revolve around a modular interior that can be customized for each trip. Businesspeople could work at a conference table during a ride, while red-eye travellers could use two seats that convert into beds.
The Gen.Travel could also be more comfortable than even some nicer airline seats. Dynamic lighting would not only help maintain natural sleep cycles, but reduce motion sickness. A configuration with front seats could keep children (and let’s be honest, adults) entertained with augmented reality. While the bubble-like cabin is built to maximize your view of the outdoors, it promises both safety and isolation for sleeping passengers.
VW didn’t outline performance. However, it said that a combination of AI and platooning (automated driving in convoys) could extend the range.
This is a research project meant to test driverless pods as “mobility-as-a-service” options. You probably won’t ever sit in the Gen.Travel. It’s a real prototype, though, and VW says features might find their way into production cars. We wouldn’t count on all of them reaching the self-driving machines VW expects to make from 2025 onward, but don’t be surprised if future robotaxis seem very familiar.