Mercedes-Benz has unveiled plans to create luxury self-driving cars, one of a flurry of upcoming investments it hopes will turn its connected cars into what it calls mobile living rooms.
The automaker hopes to pull away from rivals in the increasingly competitive connected space by shaping its services around the “luxury in motion” promise. Mercedes-Benz believes the car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become an extension of peoples’ homes.
It unveiled the futuristic concept during its Keynote at this year’s CES conference in Las Vegas, where it envisaged what the “driver of tomorrow” might be able to do through its sleek F 015 sports car. While car makers have been quick to explore ways to keep drivers connected to the outside world, Mercedes-Benz wants to go one step further by creating a more holistic experience.
The car brand’s take on connectivity roots itself in self-driving cars kitted with touchscreens and tools constantly monitoring a driver’s surroundings. When the car is in self-drive mode the passenger chairs can swivel inside the spacious cabin to allow for face-to-face conversations, while the driver’s chair can rotate forward if manual driving is selected.
Mercedes-Benz has also included a feature that lets the car locate its owner using their smartphone, while the interior displays can be activated using gestures, eye-tracking or touch.
The proposition builds on 15 years of investment from Mercedes-Benz in developing autonomous cars, which made massive strides last year with the launch of the Intelligent Drive system for S Class cars. The initiative let each vehicle drive itself in traffic jams up to 37 miles per hour, self park, stay in its lane and automatically adjust the suspension depending on road conditions.
Bigger strides are immiment now that Mercedes-Benz has a permit to test vehicles in California, which legalised self-driving technology in 2012.
Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler, said: “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.”
The claim signals a paradigm shift on connectivity from the automotive industry. The likes of Daimler and BMW are realising that it is not enough to bombard drivers with features and instead are doubling down on services that add value to the driving experience. BMW’s partnership with Samsung acknowledges the growing pressure, harmonising cars and mobile devices around a holistic experience.