Hymer Galileo self-driving camper concept takes travel and leisure to new heights
Hymer made quite a splash at this year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon with the Vision Venture, an exceptional plus-sized camper van concept that foretells a very capable, comfortable camping future for the year 2025. But it didn't drop the crystal ball after designing that Mercedes-badged van, traveling a little farther into the future to show how autonomous driving will recast the vehicle camping experience. Concept Galileo looks ahead to the year 2030, when we could have self-driving, tour-guiding camper pods customized to the traveler's every whim. It's a future in which ultra-stylish rented living pods may very well replace not only older motorhomes and trailers but even some hotels and permanent residences.
We've seen a ton of information about self-driving commuter cars, semi trucks and taxis over the years, but we really have little idea about how – or even if – RV manufacturers are preparing to reshape leisure experiences around self-driving technology. The RV industry isn't exactly the most progressive out there, so we suppose most brands are content to just hold back while the tech shakes out on the automotive side. That's a shame because autonomous, all-electric vehicles offer some very unique and exciting opportunities for the motorhome market. Not only will they enhance holiday R&R and sightseeing by eliminating the tedious task of driving hundreds or thousands of miles, they should also open up interior space and design opportunities, allowing for new layouts, more beds and more amenities.
Back in 2016, Hymer took the lead in the self-driving RV segment through its young North American division, becoming the first motorhome brand in the world to begin testing self-driving RVs. Hymer North America nabbed one of the first autonomous licenses in Canada and began testing and developing Mercedes Sprinter camper vans upfitted with prototype autonomous systems. But Hymer North America collapsed earlier this year under the weight of financial mismanagement and purported fraud. After going into receivership, its assets were sold off at auction over the summer. We can only hope it kicked the entirety of its self-driving program back to German headquarters (or somewhere) before going down in flames.
Meanwhile over in Europe, Erwin Hymer Group has only gotten stronger, growing from European leader to a big part of the world's largest RV company after its 2019 acquisition by Thor Industries. Thor and Erwin Hymer are actively bringing their respective and shared expertise together in strengthening leisure vehicle products on both sides of the Atlantic.
"In addition to complementary competencies, we have profound expertise in similar areas on both continents, which we want to bundle," explained EHG CEO Martin Brandt at the 2019 Caravan Salon. "I refer here in particular to connectivity, telematics and digital services. As a result, we believe the overall leisure vehicle experience will be even safer, simpler and more comfortable for our customers."
Hymer's Concept Galileo definitely shows how connectivity and other burgeoning technologies can change the face of RVing, exploring what happens when self-driving vehicles wrest the steering wheel from our fingers and take over the driving component of vehicle camping. More a full ecosystem than a simple camper, Galileo serves as an on-demand modular camping pod service. Each customer personalizes the floor plan and amenities package, and Hymer's team of human and robot workers prepare each pod to specification, drop it on an electric skateboard chassis and release it onto the road so it can drive itself directly to the customer.
The customer could make a traditional vehicle purchase or simply lease the vehicle for a specific trip or set period of time. When renting for a trip, the pod could presumably be paired with a battery pack sized appropriately for the intended mileage, whether that means enough kilowatt-hours to complete the whole trip on a single charge or pre-mapping charging stations along the route. For more freeform trips, the autonomous systems could manage charging along the way, locating and rerouting to available charging stations as necessary.
On board, the Galileo glamper pod very much picks up where the Vision Venture left off in previewing a more luxurious form of mobile living, one that might just be a step or two up from modern "glamping". The lack of combustion engine bay and driver cockpit create a large, wide-open space that stretches from front to rear windshield. In addition to standard amenities like a kitchen block, bunk beds, bathroom compartment and convertible dinette, the cabin is loaded with smart technologies, including transparent information displays on the windows and a health-monitoring station.
The vacationing passengers start their full vacation the minute the Galileo departs, enjoying cushy swiveling lounge seats or a nap in the comfort of a real bed. Some might watch TV or browse the web, while others enjoy the views through the large panoramic windows, getting some local information from the integrated displays. We happily imagine sleeping the night away while a Galileo pod whisks us away to camp, where we arrive well-rested just in time to experience an explosive sunrise from a panoramic camp spot, perhaps one carved into the side of a cliff. A new day of adventure and relaxation awaits, and the Galileo's intelligent onboard systems can even assist in booking activities and rental equipment.
With a large enough battery pack, next-gen high-capacity solar panels on the roof, and campgrounds equipped with electric vehicle charging, a Galileo-like pod could operate solely via electricity, without the need for LPG bottles, fuel tanks or loud generators. Hymer's cooktop designs appears to be electric, and hardware like the fridge, heater and air conditioner could also be run electrically.
Low-riding, on-demand living pods are definitely a vision for the upper glamping end of the RV market, serving as an intriguing alternative to a hotel room and/or an evolution of today's amenity-stuffed road yacht. This particular style of vehicle has much less potential for more rustic camping trips involving snaking through thick stands of evergreens or patches of cacti over dirt and rock to unmapped campsites. But with a Galileo-style ecosystem, it seems like it would be simple enough to add the option of a self-driving all-terrain chassis if and when autonomous technology is ready for off-roading.
Concept Galileo is just a loose, forward-looking vision, and no physical concept vehicle or spec sheet accompanied the rendered video and pictures at its debut. Actually, we would have missed the whole thing entirely if the video Hymer played quietly in a low-key booth outside its main Caravan Salon hall didn't catch the corner of our eye. It is one of the first detailed ideations of a self-driving RV future we've seen and gets us rather excited for the prospects of robo-chauffeured vacations under star-spattered skies.
To get the full effect of Hymer's ecosystem, check out the short video below and be sure to let us know what you think of this vision of futuristic autonomous glamper travel.
Source: Erwin Hymer Group