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VW's autonomous Sedric concept looks like anything but a car

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The thing you see above probably doesn't remind you of a car. The Sedric concept doesn't even remind us of a VW Thing. What it is is the Volkswagen Group's first crack at a Level 5, full-autonomous vehicle. And according to VW, it's sort of not supposed to have styling. (Which is somewhat of a relief.)

You'll note that it says Volkswagen Group on the front. VW notes that this is the Group's first concept car – it's a platform for "a new form of individual mobility" and will spawn "children and grandchildren" from the Group's various brands. Those versions will have designs consistent with their respective marques. So we can ignore the look and get into some of the more interesting details.

Sedric's control interface is described simply as "The Button." This would basically act as a remote – at a press of The Button, the user gets a notification of when a Sedric will arrive, and those with vision issues get guided to it when it comes to pick them up. It looks like the simplest key fob you'll ever see, or like a very classy USB stick. The difference is that it would talk to every Sedric in a shared pool, not one you own. Think of it as a fully automated ride-hailing experience.

Once inside, you'll see the lounge atmosphere and layout that has become popular on unmanned concepts like this one. It's open and airy, with a wood floor, and thankfully no longer looks or feel likes an airport tram once you step inside. There are two seats at either end and no controls to clutter up the place or confuse the passengers. Plants near the rear window are there to help purify the air. Aren't you already feeling calmer?

Up top, you can see LIDAR sensors – the kind that spin to sense the vehicle's surroundings – and the rest of the exterior is ultra smooth, down to the covered wheels. The doors are cut into the roof and swing out when opened, making it very easy to get in and out. VW says the design is supposed to engender trust. We say it's borderline cute, and the winking headlight feature does help in that regard.

The design is un-carlike because it can be. Overhangs aren't necessary and the electric powertrain is packaged in a way that doesn't require them. The battery is in the floor and the electric motor at wheel level. None of this is groundbreaking, but it shows the company's new commitment to electric vehicles, autonomy, mobility, sharing, and pretty much any other trend.

VW's vision of the future seems only mildly fanciful. After dropping you and the kids off, Sedric can be deployed to go pick up the groceries or other packages. You can control it (him?) with your voice or through a smartphone app, theoretically. Sedric can converse like a personal assistant. The windshield doubles as an OLED screen to display information, communications, and augmented reality experiences.

While it isn't quite as charismatic as VW's recent ID autonomous electric concepts – the Golf-like one and the reimagined Microbus – the Sedric is an important look forward for the VW Group as a whole. We'll wait for its kids to pass judgment on the design.

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