Never before has the self-driving car been more the center of attention at the Frankfurt Motor Show than in 2017. One standout showcase of the emerging technology was the concept Smart car unveiled by the Daimler-Mercedes group dubbed the Smart vision EQ fortwo—a completely electric, micro city car exclusively intended for car-sharing.
Now it's not the Firefly (Google’s first driverless car), though the new prototype looks like a cross between the tech giant’s discontinued project and a futuristic Smart car. The Smart vision EQ fortwo represents the German automotive giant’s future-forward vision of urban mobility, and showcases its latest developments for the future of the brand. It’s a self-driving, electric and shared car commuting experience—and represents what urban travel could look like in the coming years.
The striking thing about this new car is that this small two-seater is totally devoid of steering wheel and pedals. A large 44” dashboard with a 24” screen (not tactile) in the centre of the dashboard informs passengers of their itinerary, in addition to two small 4” screens on each side that show personal greetings. A large digital display at the bottom front of the car can be customized to display text. The vehicle's interior is brightly lit, with large glass surfaces and a door system that rotates upwards on the side towards the rear to open.
Everything is controlled by voice or smartphone. So any of your own content (music, images or videos) on your phone can be displayed on the smart screen. By default, the car also offers an entertainment program that might be appealing enough for some.
For Smart, the cars of the future will be electric, self-driving and above all, shared
With the vision EQ fortwo, Smart foretells that these three fundamental principles will reside in the coming years. The first concerns the motor, which will obviously be electric. This concept car comes equipped with 30 kWh batteries (more than the Smart Electric ED in comparison, which contains 17.6 kWh batteries) which allows for a range of up to 155 miles (250 km). When the battery loses power, the vehicle is able to go recharge itself at the nearest charging post.
The second principle is car-sharing. Smart's future vision is based entirely on car sharing, with the idea that no car is as good for cities as the Smart. This concept is particularly aimed at its Car2Go service, which is already available in several major cities around the world. The synthetic leather covered seats, and all the materials inside can easily be cleaned. Advertisements can be displayed on the exterior surfaces of the doors or screens, as well as custom messages which can also be displayed on the bumper to greet you when you see the car. A 1+1 passenger scheme will enable two passengers heading in a similar direction to meet each other to reduce costs and improve traffic flow. Even better, the car will head directly to you when you need it. There isn’t any need to pick up your vehicle from a car park or walk for miles. This is how Smart addresses the problem of availability that may appear in certain areas.
Finally, the third principle is that of the autonomous car. The Smart vision EQ doesn’t offer any steering wheel or pedals—the car takes care of maneuvering through traffic, giving you time to work or relax.
But while this vision of the automobile may intimidate some people, it’s only a concept at the moment. The arrival of such a vehicle on our roads is still undergoing research and development, and there are still many obstacles ahead, particularly from a technical and legal standpoint.
What do you think of Smart's vision of the car of the future? Would you step into a driverless car without any manual controls?