The focus was on style this weekend at Château de Chantilly. For the 2022 edition of the Arts & Elegance competition, Volkswagen did not come empty-handed and chose to involve “GenTravel”, his new self-driving car, in the competition for the most beautiful concept cars. The body of this prototype did not have enough to impose itself on the competition from the Bugatti Mistral and the Aston Martin DBR22 (winner). But the presentation of such a specimen still allowed the car group to present the progress of its research to prepare the driverless car.
Volkswagen presented its concept through a press release before the Concours d’Elegance, but it was actually at the Château de Chantilly that its world premiere was held. Every year, the event attracts manufacturers to present a new style study or a new model with an elegant design. Coming up with an autonomous concept is original to say the least, but it’s clear that the vehicle was just as popular as the others on display, judging by the crowd on site. His parade, with the other concepts, was a great opportunity to see an autonomous car devoid of steering wheel and pedals in motion in France.
lemon squeezer could board the new Gen Travel. First observation: the logo. Volkswagen does not sign the concept in its name, but in the group’s. Gen Travel aims to show what we can look at the future in the group consisting of Audi, Skoda, Seat and Cupra especially. Several major figures from the management of Volkswagen were present at the site. Xavier Chardon, the Chairman of the Board of Volkswagen France, but also the Director of Design Klaus Zyciora and the Managing Director in charge of Innovation, Nikolai Ardey. We spoke with them for several hours and a transcript of these interviews is available on the website.
What to remember aboard Volkswagen’s latest autonomous concept?
It is not the first time that the German manufacturer presents an independent concept. The first dates back to 2017. His name was Sedric. Between this and Gen Travel, Nikolai Ardey prefers to be honest: “Overall, there is no difference between Sedric and Gen Travel in terms of the autonomous driving approach. Sure, the systems have improved a bit, but what is really different about our new concept are the use cases. Gen Travel envisions a solution for to replace short-haul flights”. The idea was therefore to imagine a 100% autonomous car concept, where the space on board would allow both rest and work. For an ecological concern, but also for comfort, while small plane flights require you to go through security gates, wait for your bags and have to deal with the noise from the reactors.
Volkswagen wanted to present a cabin consisting of only 2 seats. It’s not something very normal on a stand-alone concept. But the goal was to favor only two passengers (although it is also possible to raise two children) and to offer comfort worthy of a first class in an airplane. Emphasis is placed on the windows, which can play on their opacity to provide brighter or darker atmospheres, depending on the needs of the occupants. The seats can lie completely flat or move into working position, with a table that is also mobile. The large center console separates the space for the two passengers. The rest is very minimalist and Volkswagen has not equipped the car with a thousand and one screens.
The set looks like a toy, but at the same time seems to be closer to a commercialization. Some equipment, such as virtual reality glasses, are totally fake (and very fragile), but the point is simply to stimulate our imaginations. The exterior style certainly remains Volkswagen’s main point with the Gen Travel. Despite very futuristic lines, the autonomous car sis much closer to a model close to a commercialization than Sedric five years ago. The design team was also inspired by a 1921 model for the blue color tone and the two-part proportions, which distinguish between a cabin (glass) and part of the technical organs (body).
From long-term rental to service mobility and subscription
The concept of car sharing and car “as a service” and no longer “as a good”, seems more and more familiar to Volkswagen, and the manufacturer shows it to us again here. Its autonomous car concept may come with other cabin layouts. The space would be fully modular, and Volkswagen says it’s fully customizable in connection with service mobility (mobility as a service, MaaS). Tesla and its robot axis are also present in this niche, and manufacturers are wise to prepare for this change in consumption as autonomous cars approach. “We already do between 70 and 80% of our volumes with long-term rental offers. And we would like to continue with subscription formulas, subscriptions where you commit yourself a bit like Netflix, over relatively short periods of time.” advertised to lemon squeezer CEO of Volkswagen Group France, Xavier Chardon.
The future of this car sharing will happen first at Cupra, the group’s new brand. It certainly won’t be the first brand to offer a Level 5 self-driving car in its range, but a subscription service to have access to the entire range whenever you want is on the way. “We must test this system, as we are already doing at Porsche in several cities. It will also be interesting to see if this kind of offer is possible with used cars. We can rely on Europcar, which has the technical infrastructure for this kind of service. Volkswagen owns 2/3 of the shares in the car rental company”added Xavier Chardon.