Volvo Concept 26 at LA 2015: for when you can’t be bothered to drive

Published: 19 November 2015

► Interior designed with autonomous driving in mind
► Retractable steering wheel, reclining seat
► Elements of its design expected to appear in S90

If autonomous cars are the future, this is what their interiors should look like, reckons Volvo. The Volvo Concept 26, on display at the 2015 Los Angeles motor show, is an interior design study with alternative modes for driving, relaxing or working, depending on whether the car’s under the control of the driver or in autopilot mode.

Why is it called Concept 26?

Because according to Volvo the average daily commute to work is 26 minutes, and that’s the period in which autonomous cars can come into their own.

‘Volvo Cars’ ongoing research into autonomous driving has confirmed what we all know – that the daily commute is taking the joy out of driving,’ says the Concept 26’s accompanying blurb. ‘It is during the commute and on long-haul motorway trips that people are most willing to delegate the act of driving to their car.’

So what happens when you do delegate the driving?

The steering wheel pulls back out of the way, the seat reclines like a dentist’s chair, and an enormous display screen swivels up and out of the dashboard so you can get back to Facebook or similarly pressing matters.

That seat design is the focal point of Concept 26, cradling the driver as it transforms into three different modes labelled Drive, Create and Relax.

‘Our research clearly shows that some people will want to use their commuting time creatively when they have full autonomous drive available, while others will want to just sit back and relax, watch online media or listen to music. Autonomous drive will make all of this possible,’ says Robin Page, Volvo’s vice president of interior design.

Volvo continues to invest in driverless car tech, with an ongoing research project called Drive Me planned to put a fleet of fully autonomous cars driving members of the public on the roads of Gothenburg in 2017.

Is there a production future for this type of interior?

Potentially. ‘Our new Scalable Product Architecture means we can readily bring this from concept to reality,’ says Peter Mertens, Volvo’s r&d vice president. That’s the same modular platform that underpins the upcoming Volvo S90 saloon and V90 estate, and while their driver’s seats are unlikely to recline dentist-style and there probably won’t be quite as giant a screen attached to the dash, don’t be surprised to see more than a few elements of the Concept 26’s design in their cabins.

Read more about the new Volvo S90 and V90 here.

Volvo Concept 26

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, occasional racer

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