Mercedes-Benz is clearly putting its resources toward a self-driving future. After showing the bizarre F 015 at CES earlier this year, it’s now pulled the covers off another autonomous concept at the Tokyo Motor Show. Targeted at "Generation Z," the Vision Tokyo is a youthful and funky take on social commuting, a kind of high-tech karaoke booth on wheels with some very out-there features that give an insight into what the company feels personal transport will be like in the next couple of decades.
Similar in exterior design to the F 015, Vision Tokyo is sleek, rounded and very, very silver, with futuristic blue neon highlights evoking Tron’s glowing motorcycles. The entire rear window surround doubles as a massive brake light, and the windscreens and front grille seem to be able to display a range of funky patterns for when you’re cruisin’ the local cruisin’ strip.
Like the F 015, it’s an autonomous vehicle, but this time it’s aimed at youngsters, with oversized rims and a slightly more sporty look. Well, as sporty as you can get with this kind of odd, bulbous minivan-meets-hatchback body shape.
The interior is clearly designed as a social space – the side door slides upward to give you access to a large, comfy looking booth. Since driving is not the focus here, the dash is minimal and tucked away behind the foremost passenger’s back. The windows are partially silvered over, giving privacy and isolation from the (presumably horrific) Tokyo traffic outside, and the passengers’ focus is directed towards a large screen on the sliding door.
In the middle of the floor, there’s a holographic display that seems to connect to the passengers’ smartphones, or whatever kind of device we’re carrying around in a decade’s time. It displays a bunch of floating icons that the passengers can physically interact with. The whole thing feels very cosy and social, not unlike a private booth at a bar.
The Vision Tokyo isn’t completely autonomous, there’s still the ability for a human driver to take over. A backrest folds out of the frontmost seat, and a steering wheel with minimal controls pulls out of the dash.
In practical terms, it’s an electric car with a 190 km battery range and a further 790 km out of a hydrogen fuel cell. And as a far-future concept it’s never going to be built, but it’s another example of how different automakers expect the self-driving world to be once we’ve fully relinquished the steering wheel.
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