Keen drivers, look away now – pretty soon, driverless pods will be roaming our streets, or so says the VW Group
Say hello to Sedric, the Volkswagen Group’s idea of a self-driving car. The name? Not an homage to Japanese saloons with posh old Christian names: Cedric, Cressida and Gloria, but a German English joke acronym. Sedric is, simply, a condensing of self driving car.
Without a steering wheel or pedals, the engineers and designers have been freed to do a ground-up rethink of the shape and packaging. The doors of this rounded box open by sliding apart from the centre, and once inside you sit face to face. The wheelbase is similar to an Up, but the cabin space is like a Passat.
The vision is, at some point in the future, you’d summon Sedric with a button on an internet-of-things key fob. The car comes to where you are, its cameras recognise you, and it opens. Then you just tell it where you want to go.
But is it anything more than a fight of fancy? We sat down on its mustard-yellow seats with VW Group’s head of research, Ulrich Eichhorn. His engineers have been testing autonomous cars on the road for some time – not Sedrics but adapted Audi A6s. The system uses fve lidars, a set of cameras and radars. A total of 25 sensors in all. I asked Eichhorn if he’d go in it as it drove through the middle of Berlin. No, he said. Not now. There’s a lot of learning still to be done. It’s a projection of what might be possible in 2025-ish. And at the same time a legal framework has to be agreed.
Sedric could work as a shared/rental car, summoned by an app. Or it could still be owned by households as cars are now. After all, lots of people think it’s a bit icky to use a car when you – literally – don’t know where it’s been. Eichhorn says VW’s futurologists have no idea how many cars will be private and how many shared.
The electric drive part is pretty straightforward: a fat sandwich of batteries under the foor, and a motor in the rear. This is the Group’s Modular Electric Kit (MEB). Oh and if you like driving yourself, with an engine, don’t fret. VW isn’t assuming self-driving electro-pods will take over any time soon. Chief executive Matthias Müller said at the Geneva show: “We have tradition. We’ll never abandon emotion or traditional technology. The internal combustion engine will be with us for at least two more decades.”
He also said there are big hurdles in the way of autonomous cars, including the law and the need to fgure out how they’d share the roads with human-driven cars, how the drivers’ data would be kept private, and “the ethical questions – algorithms don’t have a moral compass”. Even so, he added, “I am convinced autonomous cars will one day make mobility safer for all.”
The future’s bright, the future’s got more legroom and mustard seats
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