Finally, Mercedes-Benz has revealed the space-age creation it has been teasing for weeks. At this week’s 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Mercedes-Benz debuted a fully autonomous vehicle that also functions as a comfortable living space.
Peek inside the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion, and you’ll find an array of open-pore walnut wood, white Nappa leather, and modern metal and glass surfaces. Four leather seats with decorative LED bands rotate to face each other just like in your living room, and can slide outward for easy entry. If necessary, one seat can swivel to reach the wheel if a driver wants to take control of the vehicle. But why drive when there are six display screens that can cater to your entertainment and information needs? Passengers can interact with the multiple screens through gestures, eye-tracking, or touch.
Mercedes has taken safety into consideration not only through seat belts and head restraints, but also through the car’s high-strength body. Carbon fiber reinforced plastic combines with aluminum and high-strength steel for a durable body that is also 40 percent lighter than today’s typical car. Bodywork elements on the side of the vehicle inflate during a side collision, acting like an airbag to absorb the energy of a crash.
And while the exterior may look wild, it is also highly functional. Large LED lights protrude from the front and rear, and signal whether the car is being driven automatically or manually. The LEDs light up blue during autonomous driving and switch over to white during manual mode. Rolls-Royce-style rear-hinged doors open at a wide 90 degrees and allow for easy entry, just like the doors of a typical home.
But what’s under the hood? Mercedes-Benz said the car is designed to fit a fuel cell powertrain. Specifically, Mercedes has in mind its F-Cell Plug-in Hybrid system seen in the F 125! research vehicle back in 2011. A pressure tank made of CFRP is designed to safely store hydrogen.
We’ve seen autonomous cars slowly evolve, starting with the early Prius models where it was encouraged to have a driver behind the wheel even in autonomous mode. Now that Google has made autonomous cars without steering wheels, it seems natural to create a car with an inviting living space. And as Mercedes says to expect a self-driving truck by 2025, maybe we’ll also see this car make its way to roads sometime in the not-so-distant future.