Needless to say, the thought of computers taking over from humans behind the wheel is a massive cultural shift for consumers to digest.
As Shapiro himself said after his driverless entrance at CES, “It’s a very odd feeling to totally give up the wheel to a robot.”
Gradually, though, the shift towards acceptance is taking place. A Guardian poll last year showed that two-thirds of people said they’d feel comfortable riding in an autonomous car.
Not to mention the safety and productivity aspects. A recent Morgan Stanley (MS) report said driverless cars could add a whopping $5.6-trillion injection into the global economy, due to fewer accidents and increased productivity from being able to work in the car.
This bodes well for Mercedes-Benz and a host of other automakers who are all working on driverless cars.
The F 015: Where Driverless Tech Meets Mercedes Luxury
The company’s new design at CES is electronically powered, using a sophisticated hybrid electric fuel cell that allows the car to travel around 680 miles with zero emissions. This includes 560 miles on power from the fuel cell and 125 miles using the battery.
It’s also fitted with the usual array of high-tech cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and LED displays to monitor the road conditions and control the car’s performance.
But it’s not the only technology that turned heads at the show…
Inside the car, the four-seater interior layout combines a splash of innovation with a nod to the past. Mercedes says the design “takes its cue from the idea of the horse-drawn carriage” by having “four swiveling lounge chairs that allow passengers in the front and rear to face one another.”
Obviously, the company has included its usual smattering of advanced technology and luxury features, too. This includes high-resolution touchscreens that control the lighting, temperature, and various media applications.
After all, if you’re not doing the driving, you need something else to do in the car!
For example, the passenger can check email, browse the web, watch movies, and partake in video conferences. The car is also able to respond to gesture-control and eye-tracking technology to operate the various systems.
Check it out…
Let the Road Wars Commerce… No Drivers Allowed
Dr. Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler (DDAIF) and head of Mercedes-Benz, says the technology will transform the way we think about the driving experience: “Thirty years ago, I was seeing these pictures and dreaming about these cars. Now, to be part of the realization is fantastic. The single most important luxury goods of the 21st century are private space and time. We have a responsibility because we’re a company that invented the car. So we should be the one to reinvent the car, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
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A bold vision, indeed – and a serious one.
This isn’t Daimler and Mercedes’ first venture into the driverless area. In 2013, Mercedes unveiled its S500 self-driving car at the Frankfurt International Car Show.
It’s all part of the company’s dual mission – to muscle its way to the front of the line in the driverless technology area, as well as the traditional commercial auto space.
With the calendar flipping to 2015 last week, it means that according to industry estimates, we could be just five years away from seeing the first commercial-available driverless car on the road.
And in order to be first to market, it’s a battle that’s only set to intensify among the leading automakers. Watch this space.