VW has presented a very special concept car. We went to see the Gen.Travel, where it was born in the design studio of the German group.
In automobiles, concept cars are often seen as an outlet for designers or a place of endless imagination for engineers. But certain concepts allow going beyond aesthetic or mechanical considerations. They question the practice of the automobile and our way of conceiving the personal car. This is the case of the Volkswagen group’s Gen.Travel, a style study presented for the world premiere at the Chantilly Concours d’Elegance and which serves as the basis for the German group’s reflection on the autonomous car of the future. Electric, autonomous, flexible according to needs and available in car sharing for long journeys, these are essentially the characteristics of the VW concept.
These are not exclusive to the German band and have given rise to other studies of the style. But where Gen.Travel stands out is in its ability to combine them all and consider the car as a service and no longer as an object. In fact, the objective of the concept is to offer another mode of transport, autonomous and capable of replacing the plane in certain cases. In the spirit of the Volkswagen Group design teams and in particular Klaus Zyciora, head of the Design division, “Gen.Travel should be used as a service. The user decides the configuration of the cabin based on the number of people to be transported and the type of trip to be made, and the car behaves like a robot taxi that comes and takes you from one point to another. If during the trip you want to work, it becomes an office. If you prefer to sleep, the seat extends to form a bed, and if you want to travel with your children or your pet, the cabin also adapts».
We were able to meet the Gen.Travel, get on board and chat with its designers. We also got to play around with its augmented reality display, its mood settings, and even try out its “dodo” mode. Of course, we’ve been dying to tell you.
Don’t look for the logo, there isn’t
Let’s start with the basics. Why Volkswagen Group and not just VW? Simply because the Gen.Travel was designed by the “Future Center Europe”, a research and development entity common to all the brands of the German group (Audi, VW, Seat, Cupra, etc.).
Gen.Travel does not have its own logo. It bears the mention of the Volkswagen Group and serves as a working base for all the brands in the group. It’s up to them to take certain technologies that they have and apply them to their range.
No, but what is this style?
Because it doesn’t obey the constraints of a classic vehicle, the Gen.Travel is free to explore some, shall we say, original paths in terms of aesthetics. The result is surprising to say the least and probably too far from today’s standards to seduce during an elegance competition…
What is striking at first glance is the impression that the vehicle is cut in two horizontally. There are clearly two different volumes, between the capsule-shaped top and the extremely wide base. The vehicle is very imposing, which is explained by the leitmotif that inhabits it: to offer maximum space and comfort inside for a trip that can last several hours. The other particularly surprising element is this very rounded and perfectly vertical windshield that is hard to believe improves the aerodynamics of the car.
In general, the Gen.Travel gives an important place to windows that not only let in light, but also allow passengers inside to fully enjoy the scenery. These windows can also be darkened in the blink of an eye to preserve the privacy of the occupants. After all, who wants to be seen sleeping with their mouths open?
Finally, despite its imposing stature and frankly functional dimension, the Volkswagen group concept car allows itself some flirtations such as the rear spoiler or the butterfly side doors.
A car to mold according to your needs
The autonomous vehicle obliges, the heart of the innovations is inside the car. As it is a service, the aspect of the cabin changes according to the needs. From the four-seater version to create a central work space, to the double seat that converts into a bed, through provisions to accommodate children or heavy loads, VW designers have not been short of imagination in time to offer various types of configurations. Depending on this, the experience on board will vary, but it will always be very different from a trip in a classic car.
Regardless of the chosen interior design, there are elements that do not change. The absence of a steering wheel is the first thing that jumps out at you. The car is “controlled” by an artificial intelligence, aptly named Luna. This is embodied by a small device that can be moved from left to right on the dashboard, which also allows you to have an overview of the journey time and the remaining duration of the journey. Indeed, at the beginning of the trip, the little contraption is placed to the left of the dashboard and reaches the opposite side once the last hectometers have been covered. But for most interactions, with Luna or directly with the vehicle, users are provided with AR/VR glasses that allow a screen to be projected onto the entire windshield. Finally, to vary the atmosphere on board and change the seating arrangement, passengers have a remote control with a rotary wheel, like on the iPod.
In terms of materials, Gen.Travel follows a strong trend in the automotive industry, that of using recyclable materials or materials made from recycled materials to reduce overall environmental impact. VW Group designers also add a healthy dose of rattan and 3D printing wherever possible.
The Gen.Travel on the road, seriously?
The designers at Volkswagen’s Future Center Europe were not content with designing a vehicle and making a more or less likely shell. After two and a half years of reflection, which involved a team of eight people, the Gen.Travel was built. Now it is a concept capable of circulating and that has also carried out several tests on the road, on a closed circuit of course.
Because in addition to exploring the way of living and interacting with a car to live, the show car must also put into practice the advances of the group in the field of autonomous cars. So the VW teams devised a driving mode in which multiple Gen.Travelers making a similar trip could line up in single file close enough together to improve the aerodynamics of the entire group.
A concept, to do what?
The Gen.Travel is one of those concepts that we are not going to find on a road. Certainly, but unlike other styling studios that are content with a design and a good idea, the work of the designers of the Volkswagen group has gone further. His reflection led to a new way of car consumption, thought more as a service than as a good. Better yet, his work, or at least fragments of what is lived in Gen.Travel, could well be recovered by the different brands of the group. And even if Gen.Travel will certainly never replace long-haul flights, it is sobering as it offers a credible alternative to short flights.
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