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Will Volvo’s Self-Driving Concept Car Kill the Commuter Flight? Here’s How It Stacks Up

Volvo says its 360c autonomous car removes the need for short-distance air travel. But how does it compare to private jets and VTOLs?

Volvo 360c interior Photo: courtesy Volvo

Volvo recently teased travelers with its 360c electric-vehicle concept, a self-driving sanctuary on wheels that promises to take the sting out of the commercial-airline alternative for trips of around 200 miles. Not only does Volvo claim such trips would be a more comfortable experience, but also perhaps a quicker one, given the time it takes to get to the airport, go through screening, and wait for your flight.

But how might this autonomous option stack up against more exclusive forms of airborne transport, namely the private jet and the vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (VTOLs). We weigh the pros and cons of staying grounded.

 

Volvo 360c

Pros: Forget the usual airport hassles, and enjoy door-to-door service. Your cabin can be set up for a virtual meeting, and onboard Wi-Fi means every bit of the drive can be put to work. Or you can just take a fully reclined nap.

Cons: In a word, traffic. In most urban corridors gridlock is a given, which means arrival times are up in the air. Accidents could also present a roadblock, especially if you’re traveling alone.

Gulfstream G600

Gulfstream G600  Photo: Courtesy Gulfstream

Private Jet

Pros: The fastest way between two points, with almost no chance of delays but for radical weather changes. Pampered service and a spacious environment provide a distinctive and dependable way to erase distance.

Cons: Cost is high on the list. And even with the burgeoning fractional jet programs available today, there’s still a limit to how fast you can be wheels up.

Uber Butterfly VTOL

Uber Butterfly VTOL  Photo: courtesy Uber

Vertical Takeoff and Landing Craft

Pros: Various VTOL concepts, including Uber Elevate, feature takeoffs and landings from atop skyscrapers in city centers. That means no slogs from the office to a jet-charter center—just hit the penthouse button on the elevator and you’re off.

Cons: With unmanned drones still the subject of regulator debate, it’s unclear what rules will govern a passenger-size version to prevent the skies from becoming a flying-machine free-for-all.

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