The future of the automobile, made in Stuttgart

Keynotes from the Daimler boss are just good. If it is to be entertaining, personable and easy going, then Daimler AG puts its highest representative on the stage. And in Las Vegas Dr. Z, as it is still often called in the states, does not present much less than the Stuttgart version of the automotive future.

The future of the automobile, right?

And sympathy was necessary, at least if you have petrol in your blood. What Dr. Z on his CES Keynote presented, drives Motorists the fear pearls and question marks on the forehead. They want to take the steering wheel away from us and in five years it should be everyday routine to hand over the steering wheel to our colleague's computer in preparation for fully autonomous driving on the autobahn. What sounds like high treason to die-hard motorists, at second glance just seems logical. Things will change, that is inevitable. If you look at the last 100 years of the car, then in the next 20 years we will probably be facing the greatest change that can be expected of the driver. Because the “self-driver” becomes the “computer chauffeured”. And when it comes to rethinking the future, you could definitely listen for a moment and reflect briefly on the inventor of the automobile. Even if - I have to admit - I find the design of the F 015 as unattractive as leggings in plus sizes at a fashion show. But good. Sometimes your own horizon may be so simply focused on short goals that you understandably find it difficult to come up with visions. But that's exactly what the F015 is supposed to be, one Vision.

The car of the future, as imagined by the inventor of the automobile

5.23 meters long. That is upper class size. Yes, it's even S-class size! Over 2 meters wide, that's almost normal these days. Equipped with four lounge chairs for a chilled trip with four people. The two front seats can be rotated 180 °. So that the mundane means of transport becomes the communication hut, the new home on four wheels. Mercedes is digging deep into the wish list of the CES disciples. You don't even bother with simple monitors or even your own generation of tablets. Mercedes presents a space with virtual boundaries. The inner shell of the interior is also a projection surface and gestures are used to navigate through menus. It is a bit reminiscent Minority Reportwhen Prof. Dr. Weber with hand gestures during the conversation changes the displayed content. Watching the same tin worm in a traffic jam through the window panes? Or would you rather choose a Japanese Zen garden as a space for your own work?

in conversation with weber ces 2015

The car of the future will be more for the user than a vicarious agent for the transport from A to B. At the same time, it will take on exactly this task. If the driver wants it.

Already at the CES booth in Las Vegas, it feels strange as a driver to turn his own chair 180 ° and have the steering wheel behind him. How it feels in the traffic of a billion metropolis and whether it will really be right to drive there with limousines more than 5 meters long - let's wait and see!

Research vehicle F 015

You may or may not like the design. It's just a shell for the vision. And covers are interchangeable. Many ideas, many facts about the “show car” are entertaining, funny or just make you frown. As long as you prefer to pump 100 octane through your veins. You have to slow yourself down, pause, reflect. Rethink. Like back then. Today we no longer use carriages. We didn't get any faster horses. Innovative thought leaders have triggered systemic processes whose changes are too long-term for viewers. Prof. Dr. Weber confirmed in an interview how important the PR push by Google and theirs is Google-Car was. With the striking PR Google has generated attention that a single automaker would probably not have been able to generate. Such a thing is naturally welcomed by a board member for research. New ideas can be discussed much more freely.

With the silver aluminum whale, which was even allowed to swim a lap over the Las Vegas Strip on the same evening, Mercedes-Benz wanted to show exactly these three steps at once. Not the steps themselves, no, the result right away. This is a problem for petrolheads.

In conversation with Prof. Dr. Weber was then also made clear, such a car of the future, that drives electrically and that over 1.000 km. We no longer have any emissions locally. That must be the goal. The way there? A long one, a complicated one. A path that is difficult to predict in advance with irrefutable certainty. The research vehicle F015 is a blast at CES. The Mercedes-Benz booth was constantly overcrowded. Because, unlike with BMW or VW, you don't just present a small, half a step. No - the big Stuttgart club has been unpacked for the nerds in the Nevada desert.

Virtual zebra crossing - an attempt at explanation

As Mercedes-Benz last year, an S-Class completely autonomous Follow the original route from Bertha-Benz let, you encountered problems that you were previously unaware of. As a member of the Petrolhead genus and I count myself among them, this problem would not have occurred. Probably.

But: The autonomously driving S-Class recognized a person by a zebra stripe. So the vehicle stopped, following the logic and programming of the system. The old lady, however, apparently no longer knew this experience. A car that doesn’t just “go fast” over the zebra crossing? Or she was uncomfortable. It may well be that she could only walk poorly and did not want to hold up the driver any longer than necessary. In any case, the lady stopped at the zebra crossing. But so does the autonomously driving S-Class. What now? If we take a look at the spatial concepts for the future of the automobile, the occupants may initially not notice this situation. In the monitors you look at your social stream, you have a Google hangout or use Apple's Face-Time and then just giving hand signals is not provided. When the car drives itself, all of a sudden completely new problems arise. If you change just one stone in the system of the automobile, a whole range of new topics may roll towards you.

And then you ask yourself, how do you solve that? The F015 wants to take over the communication via laser projector and LED technology in the radiator grille. A zebra crossing virtually drawn onto the asphalt shows the pedestrians: Ok, I saw you. A swipe of the LED lighting in the grille takes over the friendly gesture of the driver, which would have helped in this case.

The idea sounds silly. Yes - but it shows a solution. In the end, it doesn't have to be the best option, but it was perfectly planned for the show with IT nerds on the strip.

1.100 km range without petrol

A plug-in hybrid with fuel cell. The first question is: What does an electric car need a fuel cell for? Charge at the plug and still store hydrogen? In the case of the F015, Mercedes speaks of two 100 kW electric motors that take over the drive on the rear axle. Mercedes-Benz has set the battery capacity in the F015 research vehicle at 29 kWh and takes the existing systems from the smart ED. Purely battery-electric, the F015 should enable a range of around 200 km. And as soon as the power charged by the plug is exhausted, the fuel cell developed by Daimler takes over. With a continuous output of 120 kW, it produces exactly as much output as the electric motors use over the long term. Mercedes envisions the maximum output of 100 kW and around 200 Nm. Can be called up when overtaking or accelerating strongly. However, since the batteries - as of smart ED today - have a maximum output of 80 kW, the fuel cell steps in as an additional power source in the event of strong acceleration and maximum power demand. The pressure tank for the required hydrogen is 5.4 liters. According to the current NEDC standards, a total range of 1.100 kilometers should be possible. Without emissions.

With this system, Mercedes-Benz is implementing a plug-in electric vehicle with a fuel cell as a “range extender”. What sounds a bit strange at first: electric cars with hydrogen and electricity plugs, in the end it makes sense to be a clever combination of future technologies.

Mercedes-Benz CES092 future of the automobile f015


And so the realization remains after a long evening in Vegas: 

No matter how little you like the design of the aluminum press sausage aka F015, Mercedes-Benz has not thought one step further in this research vehicle, but three. And you have to process that first. Even if the news came across very easily ...

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