Smart concept previews autonomous, car-sharing future
The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo, to be shown at the upcoming 2017 IAA (Frankfurt Motor Show), provides a glimpse at Daimler’s vision of urban mobility and individualized, highly flexible, and efficient local public transport. The concept highlights the elements that make up Daimler’s CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Services, and Electric) strategy. Smart’s corporate parent is also tying the concept to its new EQ technology brand and the 10-plus electric cars to reach production from Mercedes-Benz Cars by 2022, from the smallest Smarts to the largest SUVs. In 2007, Smart offered its first electric drive model, and today it optionally offers all its models with an electric powertrain.
"The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo is our vision of future urban mobility; it is the most radical car-sharing concept car of all: fully autonomous, with maximum communication capabilities, friendly, comprehensively personalizable, and, of course, electric," said Smart CEO Annette Winkler.
The two-seat concept, which measures 2699 mm (106.3 in) long, 1720 mm (67.7 in) wide, and 1535 mm (60.4 in) tall, is “the urban luxury of the future,” said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Daimler AG. “It is a radical approach with a cool and minimalist design. The show car has the hallmark Smart proportions, with accentuated, pronounced wheel arches at the four corners and with no overhang. A multiplicity of digital surfaces inside and outside allows the next level of communication between human and automobile. The customer is able to personalize the vehicle according to their individual needs."
The autonomous and electric concept vehicle can pick up passengers from their locations, and it is the first vehicle from Daimler to dispense with a steering wheel and pedals. Individualization options can help users recognize their vehicle via a black panel grille upfront as well as large projection surfaces on the sides. Freed from the task of driving, the passengers are able to relax in the “large interior.”
The vehicle’s car-sharing concept could transform "urban traffic" into "city flow," and it will build upon learnings by Daimler subsidiary car2go, for which a vehicle is hired somewhere in the world every 1.4 s and that counts more than 2.6 million customers worldwide. It intends to capitalize on latest market-study predictions that the number of car-sharing users worldwide will quintuple by 2025 to 36.7 million.
Car2go is a free-floating car-sharing service, meaning that a car does not have to be picked up from or taken back to a specific location. It can be hired and left anywhere in the designated "home" area. (Other Daimler sharing and service units are the Croove private peer-to-peer car-sharing, mytaxi ride-hailing, and the moovel mobility platform.)
Thanks to swarm intelligence and autonomous driving, users of the Vision EQ Fortwo concept do not have to look for the next available car; it will find and collect them directly from their chosen location. Because of the resulting predictability of demand, a car will probably already be nearby, as the interconnected vehicles will be nearly always on the road. The idea is to increase vehicle utilization and decrease the number of required parking spaces.
Possible ride-sharing passengers, suggested based on their saved profiles and current travel plans, can be accepted or rejected. When two passengers are onboard, the large display in the interior can show shared interests.
The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo is summoned using a mobile device and can be recognized by users by the 105 x 40 cm (41 x 16 in) black panel upfront. LED displays in place of headlamps can take on a classic look or an eye-like shape to communicate on a “more human level.” The rear lamps can be conventional or provide information related to warnings or traffic. The front grille can communicate information with other road users such as pedestrians and if the car is occupied. If the car is unoccupied, information about local events, the weather, news, or the time can be displayed on the side displays.
When not in use, the car finds its way to a charging station to top up its 30 kWh lithium-ion battery. It can dock with the power grid inductively and can act as a "swarm battery" to take pressure off the grid.
The pronounced wheel arches and the short overhangs are typically Smart, but its door concept is new. Each side door pivots wing-like over the rear axle, making for easier access, parking in smaller spaces, and reducing the chance of collision with cyclists and pedestrians. Rose-gold-colored elements in the wheels and diffuser identify the electric drive system and create a bridge to corporate EQ design.
Without a steering wheel and pedals, vehicle functions are controlled via a mobile device or voice input. The instruments are replaced by a 24-in screen surrounded by a rose-gold-colored frame and two smaller 4-in displays that can "welcome" the occupants. A lounge-like bench seat has a retractable center armrest that serves as a separation between occupants and stowage facility. Other stowage options are available on the floor and under the bench seat, secured under blue rubber tightening straps.