This is the Volkswagen Sedric Concept. The name is a combination of the words “self-driving car” and not a weird reference to a Nissan Cedric. It’s also the “first Concept Car of the Volkswagen Group” which confuses me, since VW has had plenty of concept cars. What confuses me less is the space-cyber-caterpillar look of the car, which I think makes sense for a fully autonomous car.

The Sedric is a concept of an Autonomous Level 5 car, which means that no human is involved in driving the thing at all, ever. It’s not even an option.

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When you consider that, the strange, one-box look of the car all of a sudden starts to make sense, because, really, this is no longer a car as we understand them. It’s a robot that can take you places.

The main design goal of a fully-autonomous vehicle should be focused on the inside first, and the Sedric concept does just that. The monobox shape maximizes interior volume, and that interior volume is arranged more like a small lounge. Here, we’ll let VW’s press release describe it:

The key difference to all other present-day automobiles is immediately tangible in the interior. Sedric does not have a driver. The steering wheel, pedals and cockpit are therefore superfluous. This permits a completely new sense of wellbeing in the vehicle – a welcome home feeling. Sedric is a comfortable lounge on wheels, equipped with carefully selected materials. One example of this is the birch leather used to upholster large surfaces. It is a haptic, natural material pleasant to the touch.

And, sure, our knee-jerk reaction may be to think it looks goofy, with a contrived friendly face, but when you’re putting your life in the hands of some big machine, it’s not surprising that the overall tone and aesthetic will be one of benevolent friendliness.

This is a robot, and you can interact with it like you always imagined you might interact with a helpful robot:

When a passenger gets into the car, they can talk to Sedric. Passengers can talk to Sedric about the destination, how to get there, the driving time, the current traffic situation, perhaps even a short break on the way – users can talk to Sedric like they would with a personal assistant. While you are on the road, you can choose exactly what you want to do. The windscreen is a big OLED screen with augmented reality serves as a communication and entertainment center – but passengers can also close their eyes, sit back and relax.

I’m sure at some point, somebody will hack it to talk dirty to you, too.

Instead of a key, Sedric comes with a ‘button,’ a little handheld, um, button that you push to summon your loyal Sedric. The button’s LEDs change color, and it vibrates when the car-bot arrives, and is designed to be simple enough that, say, a blind person could use it with no trouble, and gain levels of personal mobility pretty much previously unknown.

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The Sedric is, of course, a diesel. Ha ha, just kidding! Diesel. Come on.

No, the Sedric is electric, with a skateboard-like chassis containing motors and batteries, somewhat similar to Tesla, and, I suspect, nearly every other electric car likely to come out for a while.

The Sedric isn’t a production-predicting concept, but rather a showcase of Volkswagen’s overall autonomous ideas. Really, they’re not all that radical when compared to many other companies’ autonomous visions of the future. In fact, some of the unusual elements we’ve seen before, like this dashboard garden:

...that’s a dead ringer for this Rinspeed concept that included a dashboard greenhouse as well.

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Even so, I do think they’re on the right track: autonomous cars as mobile rooms, as robots for transportation, and a general sense of being unbound by the traditions of human-driven cars.