Volkswagen’s Autonomous Research Vehicle

Laurance Yap
October 18, 2022
Volkswagen feels that the future of mobility is sustainable and digital – and might not involve individual ownership. The GEN.TRAVEL is a fully functional concept that features Level 5 autonomy and a cabin that can be configured for multiple purposes.
A prototype of Volkwagen's autonomous research vehicle driving on a windy hillside road

A Prototype with Level 5 Autonomy

Electric drivetrains are just one part of the automobile’s exciting future. The ever-increasing sophistication of sensors, cameras, and software will eventually enable autonomous driving. You’ll be able to get in the car, tell it where you want to go, and let it take you there.

Today’s advanced driver assistance systems, which can maintain following distances, stop and go in traffic, and keep you in your lane by operating the steering, provide a taste of what’s called Level 5 autonomy – full hands-free operation that links all of those controls with navigation and sensors to provide safe passage without your intervention.

The Volkswagen group recently presented a fully-operating design study that incorporates Level 5 autonomy. The company says it gives a realistic look at what is possible in the next decade. Designed to be used as a service rather than as an individually-owned vehicle, the GEN.TRAVEL is designed around a spacious, modular interior; with self-driving ability and long-range technology, Volkswagen says it’s a realistic zero-emissions alternative to short-haul flights.

Volkswagen driverless car concept interior

Designed for Relaxation and Freedom

The GEN.TRAVEL drives completely autonomously, turning the driver into a relaxed passenger who has time for other things: work, relaxation, entertainment, and family.

“The GEN.TRAVEL offers us a glimpse of the travel of the future. It shows us what autonomous driving will look like in the future,” says Klaus Zyciora, Head of Volkswagen Group Design. “The GEN.TRAVEL embodies the visionary design of beyond tomorrow for the mobility of tomorrow. Efficient shaping characterizes the extremely distinctive design. Thus, in an age of technical perfection and virtually unlimited possibilities, ‘form follows function’ becomes ‘form follows freedom.’ The automobile will not only be better, but also more exciting than ever before.”

A modular interior concept can be customized for each journey. The GEN.TRAVEL is designed to be booked as a Mobility-as-a-Service offering. Depending on the configuration, up to four people can be transported. For business trips, it can be configured for a conference with four comfortable seats and a large table in the middle of the interior.

For overnight trips, a configuration allows the conversion of two seats into two beds that can be folded out to a full-flat position; an innovative restraint system ensures safety even when lying down.

For family trips, the GEN.TRAVEL’s front seats can be configured to entertain children using augmented reality (AR). The interior is light, with a natural design. All HMI (human-machine interface) elements are produced using sustainable materials, combined with recycled or natural materials.

Volkswagen driverless car concept exterior

Futuristic Exterior with Glass Cabin

The exterior of the GEN.TRAVEL is divided into two parts. A completely transparent, glass cabin is perched atop a slim lower section, which houses all the technical features. The edge of the glass is at waist level, making it very low – maximizing the view of the outside. At the same time, when passengers are lying down flat in on those seats, they do not experience any external influences. Gull-wing doors facilitate easier entry and exit.

To make the ride even more comfortable, the GEN.TRAVEL features eABC (electric Active Body Control) suspension that automatically calculates vertical and lateral movements such as acceleration, braking, or cornering ahead of time – and optimizes the driving style and trajectory of the vehicle accordingly. Artificial intelligence (AI) and platooning – where fully-autonomous cars drive together in a convoy – are used to further increase the range for long-distance journeys.

Volkswagen driverless car concept with gullwing doors open

Is This the Future of Travel?

Volkswagen feels that the future of mobility is sustainable and digital – and might be centered around services rather than individual ownership. The GEN.TRAVEL lets the company experiment with concepts today that will be possible in the near future thanks to innovative technology.

Front view of a Tesla Model 3 driving through canyon roads

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