Design Concept of the Day: Mercedes-Benz F 015

January 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

merc f015Its full name is “F 015 Luxury in Motion”, but I can’t quite bring myself to type that in a headline. Anyway, this Merc concept, on show at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (more news from CES to follow), is an autonomously-driven four-door monospace lounge-saloon, longer and roomier than the S-Class, with a CFRP/steel construction said to give a 40% weight reduction, and furnished with four rotating armchair-type seats. These can be swivelled for face-to-face contact, set up for working or for entertainment, and swing outwards by 30 degrees when the doors are opened for easier climbing-in and -out. The cabin’s described as “a digital arena”, with six screens on the instrument panel, rear and side panels, controlled by touch-screen, gesture or even eye-tracking and using laser-projection and LED displays.
It can be ‘driven’ manually, it seems, but this camera- and sensor-equipped car’s in constant contact with the outside world and can be commanded to operate fully-autonomously (there’s a pedestrian-detection system with automatic braking, of course, though this, spookily, involves projection of a virtual zebra-crossing and the broadcasting of a message that it’s safe to cross. Not sure I like the sound of cars issuing instructions). Says Daimler chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche, “we have a master plan (my italics) in place to take the big leap required getting from technically feasible to commercially viable.” Dr Zetsche also makes the very salient point that, by 2030, given the expected growth in the global mega-cities, “the single most important luxury goods of the 21st century are private space and time… autonomously-driving cars by Mercedes-Benz shall offer exactly that.”
Also notable is the F 015’s plug-in hybrid powertrain, with hydrogen fuel cell plus pair of electric motors; it’ll have a range of 684 miles (124 miles in all-electric mode) and can do 0-60mph in 6.7 seconds, reports Autocar – which quotes Dr Zetsche as saying: “Anyone who focuses solely on the technology has not yet grasped how autonomous driving will change our society. The car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space.” Luxury in Motion for those who can afford it, at least.
  • News on the Detroit Electric SP.01 Lotus-alike (£100,500 starting price): to go into production in Leamington Spa for 2016, reports Autocar, just in case you were keeping tabs on this one.
  • Some more thoughts on ‘peak car’ from Scott LeVine, looking at driver licencing amongst young men in particular: the decline in their driving (both in terms of mileage driven and licence-holding) appears to have stabilised; there appears to be little correlation between reduced driving/internet usage and attitudes to environmental concerns; economic factors are an issue (including low pay, employment rates); the more difficult driving test and cost of lessons are off-putting; still a lot of questions unanswered, basically
  • And some more detail (via the abovementioned S LeV) in a report for the RAC Foundation (Berington and Mikolai), using the Understanding Society data: young adults’ licence-holding correlates with age, education, economic activity status, individual income, living arrangement, housing tenure and rural/urban locality; reported mileage relates to age, commuting, economic activity status (more pronounced effects for women), individual income and area type, with one of the most important correlates being whether they drive to work. Not driving (despite having a licence) is associated with having low socioeconomic status/being unemployed, remaining in education, living in London and in shared accommodation. The report also points out the growing phenomenon of “emerging adulthood” – staying in parental home/studying for longer, later marriage/children/home ownership, etc, “important structural changes in the way that young adults make their transition from school to work” – and the impact of intergenerational financial support (i.e. having affluent parents who pay for driving lessons). It suggests looking further into the link between lower driving and the expansion of higher education since the 1990s; and whether there is actually a shift in lifestyle and preferences that will mean this generation’s lower driving rates will continue as they age, have children and soforth.
  • Trend-reporting from Ford for 2015, looking at Generation Z (born 1993-): they’re digitally-savvy, socially-conscious, into sharing rather than tying themselves into soon-to-be-obsolete tech, don’t like carrying stuff (keys, wallets etc) and are looking at a convergence of transport and communication, amongst other claimed insights in the Looking Further With Ford 2015 report, outlined and linked-to here.
  • And a report by John Urry et al (incl. folk from the Centre for Mobilities Research and Liveable Cities teams at Lancaster University) for the government’s Foresight Future of Cities project. This outlines historic urban growth and suggests five possible future scenarios – High-Tech City, Digital City, Liveable City and Fortress City (surveillance, etc) – hydrogen-fuelled, shared/on-demand driverless cars and slow-moving microvehicles feature in the first three projections, related to changes in commuting/working patterns, localism, virtual communication and soforth. The fourth scenario is the Mad Max social/infrastructural breakdown… But could larger cities see a mixture/combination of these by district?

 

 

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