Smart's vision for the self-driving electric fleet of the future
At this year's Frankfurt Motor Show, it will be some of the smallest cars that will feature some of the biggest technologies. A day after Mini rolled out its Electric Concept, Daimler is showing its all-new Smart Vision EQ ForTwo. Not only does the two-seater follow in the all-electric footsteps of the Mercedes Generation EQ, it features a full suite of technologies purpose-designed for autonomous car-sharing. The colorful little bubble lets you know it's your ride, then whisks you away to your desired destination.
Unlike Mini, the Smart brand has had an electric car for years and currently offers an electric option for all its vehicles. So, Smart is now taking the next step into the future, exploring a fully autonomous electric ForTwo developed specifically for urban car sharing.
The Vision EQ ForTwo fleet that Daimler envisions would use "swarm intelligence" to concentrate in areas of high demand, helping to shorten pick-up times and improve overall system convenience. There would always be available cars out roaming the roads based on this intelligent mapping, helping to foster higher utilization numbers and cut reliance on privately owned vehicles.
Passengers, of course, would rely on their mobile devices to schedule a ride, and instead of the common practice of squinting to try to see if the driver behind the wheel matches the tiny profile photo on the phone (cars themselves can be rather generic), each passenger would be greeted by personalized messages displayed on the Vision EQ ForTwo's digital front display and side projection surfaces.
As focused on full autonomy as the 2015 Mercedes F 015 concept was, it still had a steering wheel and driving pedals. Daimler takes the Vision EQ ForTwo one step farther, eliminating the steering wheel and pedals altogether. And without those, or cabin controls, or a transmission tunnel, or the other clutter of today's non-autonomous gas car, the concept has a roomy interior that feels much larger than you'd expect from a tiny city car.
Smart keeps the cabin open and simple with a synthetic leather bench seat, deep single foot well, and floating, 24-in digital dashboard that can be used by passengers for infotainment. Two compact 4-in displays angled outward allow the car to communicate with passengers when necessary, starting with a simple welcome message. Passengers can control interior settings via mobile device and/or voice command.
The large bubble side windows further open up the interior, and light strips integrated throughout fill it with soft, diffuse light. A retractable console armrest can serve as a passenger divide and storage area when needed, while additional storage space can be found under the bench and on the floor.
In what could become the next trend in online dating and hookups, Daimler mentions the idea of a digital "1 + 1" service for single passengers that suggests other local passengers for the open seat based on digital profiles and current travel plans. The onboard passenger would be able to accept or reject the suggestions, and when the second passenger hopped aboard, the digital display would show content of common interest, such as music or sports, as a sort of icebreaker.
The Vision EQ ForTwo's exterior design is a great example of form following function. The proportions are kept quite compact and Smart-like, supporting the car's overall role as an efficient service car optimized for tight urban spaces. The bubble doors pivot open to the rear, creating easier ingress and egress without the worry of hitting cyclists, pedestrians or other vehicles.
"The show car has the hallmark smart proportions, with accentuated, pronounced wheel arches at the four corners and with no overhang," explains Daimler design chief Gorden Wagener. "A multiplicity of digital surfaces inside and outside allows the next level of communication between human and automobile."
Beyond just passenger names and greetings, the digital black panel up front could show information like the number of passengers on board, the destination, or warnings to other road users. Daimler envisions the side projections being used for more general information or advertising, such as the time, weather, news ticker or local events schedule. The LED headlights and taillights would similarly change appearance.
The Vision EQ ForTwo's electric motor is powered by a 30-kWh lithium-ion battery. In Daimler's futuristic vision, each car would drive itself to a charging station when not actively providing a ride to passengers. The cars could be charged inductively and also feed electricity into the grid to help cut stress during peak times.
The Smart Vision EQ ForTwo will make its world debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show, which starts in less than two weeks. New Atlas will be there to grab some photos of this concept and bring back all the latest industry news. In the meantime, play the clip below to see more of how this concept fits into Daimler's vision of urban mobility (and horrible future fashion).