Deals on Wheels: Mercedes’ Self-Driving “Boardroom”
It’s event day. Go time. You’ve got three anxious passengers crammed into your rental car and a strange city to navigate. Everybody’s stressed.
Wouldn’t it be great to beam out to a boardroom right now? And a latte?
Mercedes-Benz feels your pain. In fact, when what’s on its drawing board hits the pavement a few years from now, you could be sitting face-to-face with your team, sipping lattes and hashing over event details while your car drives you effortlessly to your destination.
Fully autonomous vehicles, the next evolution in personal travel, are expected to merge into our chaotic mainstream within a decade. If you live in California or Nevada where test driving robotic vehicles is legal, you already may have encountered one.
To date, what little most of us have seen of these self-directed steeds has been decidedly nerdy. The Google car, for instance, looks more like an overgrown Roomba, and about as comfortable. Somehow, most autonomous test models fall short as symbols of the greatest advance in automotive safety since the seat belt.
But that was before the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle sidled itself to the curb at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Suddenly, the robot apocalypse seemed inviting, commonsensical – and long overdue.
This sleek, space age ovoid nudges the wheels far forward and aft to make room for a cozy tete-a-quartet where the leather pod seats swivel to face each other rather than fix on the road ahead. Six high-rez touch screens turn the interior into what the automaker calls a “digital living space,” enabling the passengers to interact with the vehicle as well as the outside world.
We ought to be excited about robo-cars, which have the potential to transform driving into a safe and peaceful experience by eliminating the biggest problem on our roads: human behavior. Vehicles that not only talk to each other wirelessly but are immune to road rage, distraction, alcohol and dozing will almost certainly reduce the automotive carnage.
There are admittedly a few bumps in the robo-road ahead. How does one underwrite auto insurance for a mechanical driver, for instance? Who’s liable in the event of a crash? And most important: can we trust them?
My bet is, we’ll have all of that worked out and be toasting lattes in our mobile living rooms long before we perfect the flawless PowerPoint presentation.
Photos from mercedes-benz.com