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My ride in the car of the future, Mercedes Benz F 105 - Fortune


My ride in the sci­fi car of
the future
by Verne Kopytoff

MARCH 19, 2015

hit an allMARCH 18,Digital
6:21 sales
time high of $4.51 billion

The Mercedez-Benz F 105 autonomous concept car.
Verne Kopytoff/Fortune

Are fully autonomous, “driverless” cars within grasp? A
new Mercedes-Benz prototype shows the possibilities.


I couldn’t help myself from occasionally looking over my shoulder to check what lay ahead. As we approached. The car. along with interlopers like Google and Tesla. Using sensors. the tarmac was closed to traffic. What they came up with was a plush cabin filled with touch screens and an autopilot who never tires. in some cases. of course.) But I felt unnerved. and Ford.Fortune I felt a bit uneasy as a Mercedes­Benz self­driving car chauffeured me and my fellow passengers around an abandoned military airfield. I soon found myself sitting in a luxurious and comfortable white leather seat reminiscent of the style found in airline 2/5 . would have stopped if another car careened in our path. the Mercedes engineer who helped create the car. Mercedes Benz F 105 . Mercedes invited a couple dozen other journalists to ride in its electric prototype. at least in Mercedes’ vision. Mercedes is trying to show that it has the tech know­how to succeed in the future. No one was watching the road. Welcome to the future.3/19/2015 My ride in the car of the future. A computer ably steered the car around in gentle loops and. presumably. (Money will be of no object in the future. (In fact. The car woke from its nap and made a slow arc to where we were waiting. On Tuesday. but had yet to let more than a just handful of outsiders hitch a ride.” a signal that it was safe to pass in front. is impossibly sleek and metallic.) http://fortune. the F 015. a female’s voice rang out from the car to say “Please go ahead. The body is elongated with the wheels spaced unusually far apart to allow for more room inside the cabin. are all pushing the envelope as they experiment with a new generation of vehicles that operate autonomously and. Nissan. The German automaker had premiered the design at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. an apparent requirement for visionary car designs. have radically different designs. at least as envisioned by Mercedes and its team of futurists who have built a sci­fi car that is intended to reflect what driving will be like in 2030. located across the bay from San Francisco. tapping a smartphone app to summon the vehicle from a pseudo­garage nearby that was built for the occasion at the former Alameda Naval Air Station. Rival automakers like Audi. particularly after the Mercedes “driver” and I did what would be unthinkable in a normal car: We swiveled our seats to face backwards. The ride started with Peter Lehmann. the car had detected that we were nearby and automatically started slowly opening the car’s four bay doors.

I considered the possibility of a crash. and with little fanfare. This is the future. at least in Mercedes’Myvision. But they’ve rigorously tested the system. we turned our attention to the car’s interior. so why not? And so we spun around to face two fellow passengers in the back seats. Would it feel odd? Of course. Mercedes Benz F 105 . I gave in. over and over. I felt like I was on an amusement park ride as the car made arcs across the vast expanse of open pavement.” suggesting a sort of private retreat. We talked like we were sitting in a hotel lobby—except the car was still moving. After we made a few loops. Unburdened from staring at the 3/5 http://fortune. Lehmann never touched the tiny steering wheel. which seemed like an afterthought.3/19/2015 ride in the car of the future. Mercedes representatives liked to describe it as a “cocoon. albeit probably never faster than 25 miles per hour.) With Lehmann in the “conductor’s” chair. I repeatedly felt an uncontrollable urge to turn my head and peek ahead to make sure the route ahead was clear. I prepared mentally for the ride. the car started to slowly roll across the pavement.Fortune in the . or used the gas and brake peddles. As we moved along. Lehmann pressed a button on the side of the seat to swivel his chair to face backwards and suggested I do the same. right? After buckling our seat belts.

” suggesting a sort of private retreat. For example. or make video calls with friends. get information about potential sightseeing side trips nearby. In any case. driving the car on city streets would be illegal because the car lacks full­autonomy (it was programmed specifically for the airfield) and is without some required safety features like air bags. the concept car isn’t really fully functional. In fact. Not that they won’t crave a look. it stops and uses a laser to project what looks like a green crosswalk on the street as a signal to walk. If the car comes across people waiting to cross the road.   AROUND THE WEB    http://fortune. Mercedes Benz F 105 .com/2015/03/18/mercedes-benz-f015/?xid=gn_editorspicks&google_editors_picks=true Comments Reprint 4/5 .Fortune to describe it as a “cocoon. It’s more of a source of inspiration that assumes all regulatory and technical hurdles have already been worked out. Some of the F 015’s high­tech wizardry is clearly still being worked on. car owners could show off their vacation photos. But fully autonomous vehicles are still years away from being commercially available. automated parking. Many production cars already feature more basic versions like collision avoidance systems. And displayed on those screens? Photos showing a 360­degree panorama of the Louvre museum in Paris and bucolic forest scenes. Mercedes does have driverless cars that it legally tests on public roads. play movies. or futzing with the touch screens installed on nearly every flat surface.3/19/2015 My ride in the car of the future. And even then. cars and pedestrians will increasingly share the same space as cities become more densely populated. driverless technology is slowly gaining momentum. Indeed. As Mercedes sees it. The company is hoping to prepare by imagining what it can do to make it safer and more convenient. The trouble is that such a light show would be invisible in daylight. Mercedes acknowledges. and cruise control that keeps cars in their lanes. In theory. However. drivers can instead relax during rides and use the car as a personalized living room for napping. Mercedes has come up with a sort of light show to a better communicate with pedestrians. Unburdened from staring at the road. reading. they are modified production cars that lack the visual pizzaz of the F 015. it’s unlikely that laws will allow drivers to swivel their chairs away from the road. Much of that is purely theoretical at this point. in the future.