Volvo’s Monitoring & Concept Center (VMCC) in California have produced what they believe is a feasible future transport product based upon an inline occupant configuration. The designers at VMCC envisage a sleek two-seat commuter vehicle which uses very little energy and rarely gets caught in traffic.
|“Maybe it sounds over-the-horizon, but consumer trend research together with our conceptual design and engineering work shows we could deliver that vehicle before 2010,” says VMCC science officer Ichiro Sugioka. “Our competitors should be wary of the stuff we’re doing!”The Tandem concept reflects the attitude the department have to vehicle design, looking forward to potential new ways to travel. Although much smaller and seemingly more delicate than traditional Volvos, the team at VMCC insist they can factor into the Tandem the level of passenger safety expected from the brand.
As Kolit Mendis, structures and safety engineering manager, explains: “We compensated the Tandem’s light weight with new occupant restraint concepts designed to handle frontal collisions with heavier vehicles. Also, the central positioning of Tandem occupants leaves ample room on either side to implement structural features mitigating the severity of side impacts. Our technical evidence is that Volvo would have no problem at all in delivering its traditional levels of driver and passenger safety.”
|Lars Erik Lundin, VMCC general manager, says that for Volvo, meeting the challenge of sustainable mobility is about looking at designs and hybrid technologies (electric drive, alternative fuels, petrol or diesel derivatives) that will provide ‘maximized total efficiency of mobility with minimised environmental impact’.”Our job is exploring the future and doing something really extraordinary,” says Lundin. “The Tandem was originally conceived as a vehicle to help solve the specific over-crowding and pollution problems of southern California, but we soon realized it taps into how people work, travel and think almost everywhere in the industrialised world nowadays.”Strategic design chief Doug Frasher believes that the future will involve car buyers changing their thinking from one-car-fits-all to a scenario “where people own different cars for different reasons, just as we have different clothes for different social events, suits for work, and jeans for play”.
“We envisage a ‘family’ matrix of cars, starting with the commuting Tandem, that will spark a new paradigm in mobility, changing the way the world thinks about auto ownership in the same way the Sony Walkman did for the audio industry.”
|Volvo’s thinking thinking is the result of ‘ethnographic’ research begun in 1998 into past and current trends among various consumer and other audiences, using techniques such as workshops, focus groups and customer panels. “We created a timeline stretching from 1900 until 2010 with the aim of profiling future customers and the world they’d be inhabiting by understanding how trends emerge,” said Benny Sommerfeld, business development manager. “The timeline pinpointed likely future values, needs, desires and aspirations.”|
The VMCC team believe that this type of design approach will become increasingly relevant in the future, with changes in the way people live and travel. Although very much a concept, the Tandem is not simply a design exercise. According to Geza Loczi, VMCC design director, the Tandem is “a real product still in its infancy that needs a lot of molding and tweaking to grow into a full-fledged finished product.”