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Shot with a Silver Arrow: Have Mercedes cracked the future?

Driving us into the darkness. The Mercedes F015 concept.

Driving us into the darkness. The Mercedes F015 concept.

The recent New Year celebrations not only gave us the chance to wave a fond farewell to 2014, but it has opened our eyes to a whole new chapter. The past has been left behind. It is time to look forward into the abyss. It is the the single unknown that humanity cannot truly understand or predict; it is the future. In the dazzling lights of Las Vegas, surrounded by the vast Nevada desert the world has taken its first glimpse into what lies ahead. Mercedes have released the F015 Luxury In Motion concept that presents a vision of autonomous cars, powered by a hydrogen cell and electric motors. What I want to look into is not the technical specifications of this dream machine, but instead understanding the accessibility and utilization of future technologies. Have Mercedes cracked the future?

Specification Breakdown of the F015

– Development complete by around 2030

– 268 BHP, 0-62 mph in 6.7 seconds, zero emissions

– Theoretical range of 684 miles

– 4 doors

– Completely autonomous operating system that can be used instead of manual control

– Maximise the interior space through creating a lounge interior

– Interior to transform into a digital activity space through multiple monitors, sensors and cameras

– Launch of artificial intelligence to build trust between car and driver

– Control through gesture, touch and eye tracking sensors

– Exterior scanners and communication with pedestrians and other road users

The Digital Activity Space inside the F015 will revolutionise travel. Image Credit: motorauthority.com

The Digital Activity Space inside the F015 will revolutionise travel. Image Credit: motorauthority.com

In reference to this paradigm shifting concept car, Mercedes Benz boss Dieter Zetsche believes that this car will transcend beyond its role as a mode of transport into a complete mobile living space. The key to this evolution is the rise of artificial intelligence; the car will be able to operate fully by itself with no input from the driver through the use of sophisticated cameras and sensors that connect to the central drive system. If this concept can come to fruition, those childhood fantasies and films may finally become a reality. However, with all these technological advantages, humanity may be forced to put all their trust into a completely autonomous machine. Even though the car can be driven manually, when the car is in self-driving mode the ‘user’ does not have to worry about driving at all.

Speaking as a driver (through both necessity and passion), I believe that an autonomous vehicle will be met with a great deal of skepticism and a severe distrust. My first concern revolves around the reliability of any system, whether this be of the mechanical or computerized type. Online banking for example has eased the day to day stresses of banking, allowing us to check financial statements and make important payments on the move or in the comfort of our own home. However, online banking has opened up the avenues for computer hackers who steal our money right from under our noses without leaving a single finger print. If that example was not enough for you, then let us try this for size.

Have you ever been working away on your computer, Candy Crush-ing your brains out on your tablet or updating your Facebook status on your phone and the whole thing just well, stops? Computer systems are getting ever more elaborate and sophisticated, but every now and again they will still go wrong. I guess it is very similar to how the human body can operate at maximum potential for most of the time and then spontaneously you malfunction and you are hit with the snot-sneeze-snort-laugh-sick in the mouth. Could you honestly say that if you were left in the hands of a computer to drive you around, that you would not be worried about this computer having a snot-sneeze-snort-laugh-sick in the mouth? When a computer freezes, you can restart them, but what if a car froze at 70mph down the motor way?

Most importantly, Zetsche said that this new concept would change the car from just transportation into a mobile living space, but I believe that the F015 is not really needed for that. For anyone who loves driving, the car is already more than just a mode of transport; your car is an extension of your personality. Something magical happens when you get behind the wheel and you do feel a deep surge from within you. There is not much that beats that feeling, of you, the car and the road. Not only that, but one cannot forget the trouser crossing feeling you get when you look at some of the metallic goddesses that have been created; Aston Martins, Alfa Romeos and Morgans to name but a few.

The Google self-driving car is the anti-drivers car, in both look and feel. I will admit that the F015 is definitely an improvement, but despite its futuristic awesome look I would still take something like a Porsche 911 or an Aston Martin DB9 any day of the week.

dear-google-self-driving-cars-should-be-this-not-this

If we are going to have self driving cars, let us at least get them right

I will never cease to be astounded by the classic German efficiency in dealing with issues before any one else even realizes they exist in the first place. And in the case of the F015 concept it is business as usual; the head of design at Mercedes Gordon Wagener has understood the concerns of the modern motorist and suggested theories to overcome this.

“Car makers will be differentiated by how they use the technology. There are lots of smartphone manufacturers, but only one Apple. At Mercedes we want to define modern luxury, and the technology cannot be overwhelming”

The key is accessibility and relate-ability of the technology to the customer. Wagener has suggested that the key to the future is harnessing the technology in a way that does not overpower or intimidate the passenger. The overall aim of course is to make Mercedes THE brand name you associate with this new technology. You don’t use a vacuum cleaner, you use a hoover. You don’t use a ball point, you use a biro. You don’t use a smartphone, you use Apple. Therefore, you don’t use any autonomous vehicle; you use a Mercedes.

Will we ever have a little car with a heart? Image Credit: herbiemania.com

Will we ever have a little car with a heart? Image Credit: herbiemania.com

If there were two key areas central to the development, they are of course design and materials. This may be the basic specifications, but Mercedes have understood that these variables must be linked by a rational constant; simplicity of interaction. The key to the success of this concept is the ease in which passengers can understand and use the car. In many cases, a great leap forward is often presented in a situation that may baffle and intimidate the user; it is an understandable reaction as there is an inbuilt human reaction to fear what we are not familiar with (or do not understand). Therefore, instead of multi-layered majestic complexity, Mercedes are aiming for minimalist simplicity.

“Our concept is about taking things away – having an overly exaggerated face or aggressive headlights won’t send the right message. You don’t want an autonomous car to look like it’s going to chase down the motorway; that doesn’t lend trust or look cool. Cars will need to look trustworthy and use all of the technology in a very useable way”

It is very easy to repeatedly add elements to blind your audience with the bright lights and the loud music; the real skill is being able to take things away in order to create a more finely honed finished product. If Mercedes are to succeed, then trust will be the final frontier they must conquer. Think of this like Iron Man; you can possess all the money and all the latest technology that the world can conjure, but until you receive the trust of those you are serving, you will never truly succeed.

We may be sometime from bringing the stories of Herbie and Knight Rider to life, but the world of artificial intelligence is closer than we think. As it stands the F015 is nothing more than a concept, and will more than likely fall into the invisibility of time like many of these designs do. However, if this truly is the future, it will change the world of motoring forever. And honestly, if there was one car manufacturer from anywhere in the world that may just pull this off, they would be German, and they would be Mercedes (or maybe Audi).

Let me know your views on autonomous vehicles! Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69!

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

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One comment

  1. Jo says:

    This is a great development for the future. We can have our self drive cars for weekdays and keep our regular cars for the weekends. When the Model T’s came out people didn’t stop riding or keeping horses. Today, over a hundred years on, people still ride their horses and some cultures still use horses and carts.

    January 28th, 2015 at 3:09 pm