New mobility in San Francisco.
' The car will become a mobile living space. '
MYSTERIOUSLY SHIMMERING SPACESHIP
Peter Lehmann is the master of the F 015 Luxury in Motion future model at Mercedes. The vehicle is 5.22 metres long, weighs almost three tonnes and is packed with everything the people in charge at Daimler envision for the car of beyond tomorrow. Dark-haired Lehmann pushes a key on his smartphone and the mysteriously shimmering spaceship silently rolls out of the multi-storey car park. The wide-opening “saloon doors” provide a view of the gigantic interior with four individual seats and trendy lounge atmosphere. Warm wood tones, leather that is soft to the touch and lots of that personal space that is lacking in today’s cars. “The wheelbase is about one metre longer than on the Maybach”, says Lehmann and settles in the swivelling driver’s seat while the doors close without a sound. Even at second glance the interior still has the vibe of a future laboratory – bright, visionary and simply chic. It is a place to feel good in, but the predominance of the large displays and the narrow windows’ lack of importance take some getting used to at first. Gigantic flat screens in the door panels come to life and the spaceship starts to move. Slowly at first, then more swiftly before Lehmann starts the autonomous driving programme and turns around to face his fellow passengers. He unerringly operates the keys on the flat screen in his door panel, while the F 015 rolls towards the skyline of San Francisco at a speed of 60 km/h.
THE LAND OF BOUNDLESS INNOVATION
In Europe, the wheels once more turn more slowly than in the USA. Although numerous test vehicles of the automobile manufacturers have also been travelling autonomously on Germany’s motorways for quite some time; the legal framework has so far made it difficult to transfer major advances to the production models. The US is pursuing the dream of autonomous driving more rigorously. It therefore comes as no surprise that some states in the land that equates mobility with freedom take a more accommodating approach. The network of American highways and interstates, at one point conceived as a copy of the German motorway network, has a significantly lighter density than in countries such as Germany, Austria or the Netherlands. The distances are greater, the speeds lower and the innovative drive sometimes boundless. Several US states – California, Nevada, Michigan and Florida – quickly agreed to create the legal framework for autonomous driving. However, large states such as Oregon, Arizona, Colorado or Texas are holding up the red card for now. In many other states, work is currently under way to permit autonomous driving in accordance with the appropriate guidelines.
But today that is immaterial. While the Mercedes F 015 Luxury in Motion was driven manually on the bustling streets of San Francisco, it now has to demonstrate its capabilities in autonomous mode on the closed Naval Air Station Alameda on the east side of the bay. The shiny silver test vehicle is devoid of the expected radar sensors, cameras and laser technology, because it is intended rather as a general vision of where the automotive journey might take us in the next ten to 15 years. The Daimler development engineers are certain that it will be possible to make many trips fully autonomously by 2030. “The world will be turning even faster than today 15 years from now”, Mercedes designer Holger Hutzenlaub predicts, “we will be on the road more and time will become even more of a luxury item than it already is today”. It will be important to make more efficient use of this time than ever before and the car is to play a decisive role in this regard.
' Time will become a luxury item. '
EFFICIENTLY USED DRIVE TIME
Not only pedestrians and passers-by are quite amazed. The up to four occupants, who bask in the comfort of the lounge chairs, can’t help but feel the same way when they first encounter the automotive future, which glides through the turmoil of daily life like a cocoon in a sea of traffic. The speed can be regulated with a virtual slide control in the door panel. The power over speed and destination can also be delegated to any other passenger in the individual seats. Numerous vehicle functions are not only controlled by touch-sensitive modules, but also by gestures and eye tracking. “People can use the actual drive time in a completely different way than before”, explains Mercedes designer Hutzenlaub, “everyone can decide personally how much of the virtual world to let into the car”. The oversized screens not only display the speed, navigation destination and route guidance instructions, they also show the current song title and the estimated time of arrival, complete with a list of jobs that still need to be done before then: three more calls need to be made during the remaining 23 minutes of our trip. After all, the Mercedes F 015 Luxury in Motion and its soft leather seats is not only meant to provide relaxation on the commute to work, but also to allow efficient use of the drive time itself. Telephone conferences, a virtual detour to wife and kids, or a film to clear the mind – all of this is no problem at all with the autonomous vehicle from Swabia.