Mercedes-Benz's F015 concept is a self-driving, hydrogen-powered living room

mercedes benz f015 self driving car
Image: Melissa Riofrio

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You can’t fault Mercedes-Benz for its enthusiasm. As the company rolled out the F015 Luxury in Motion concept car on Monday night before the Consumer Electronics Show, about the only thing recognizable about it was the four wheels.

mercedes benz f015 self driving car headlights Image: Melissa Riofrio

The Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion concept car arrived myseriously in the dark, stopping before it hit this stylish pedestrian.

Everything else, from the lozenge shape to the touchscreen-sheathed interior, screamed of a beyond-Jetsons future. Sure, that’s what concept cars are all about, but this one mashes so many ambitions into its silver shell that it’s frankly overwhelming. Here are the highlights from our high-tech perspective:

1. It is designed to spare you from driving

Even those of us who love driving have to admit it’s tiring. The F015 is designed to drive itself if you’d rather be doing something else. “Cars will turn into mobile homes in the very best sense of the word,” said Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche at the announcement event. “Exclusive cocoons on wheels, letting people do exactly what they want or need to do.”

mercedes benz f015 interior Image: Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion concept car imagines the interior as a mobile living room, where you can drive or socialize or work as you wish.

This cocoon will have passenger chairs that can turn toward each other for interaction. I noticed the chairs were white and had to wonder whether they would be self-cleaning.

2. The interior of the car is covered in touch displays

mercedes benz f015 concept touchscreen interior Image: Mercedes-Benz

Why is this man smiling? Because he can interact with the car through touchscreens embedded all around him, in the F015 Luxury in Motion concept car.

Although Mercedes-Benz has resisted touchscreens in the past, the F015 represents yet another break from that—and then some. Its interior includes wide bands of touchscreens, not just in the dashboard, but in the passenger seating so riders can access infotainment directly.

3. The car will be proactively safe

mercedes benz f015 interior 2 Image: Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion concept car can detect pedestrians and yield to them with the addred reassurance of a beamed safety zone.

The safety features list goes on forever, but the newest thing was a filmed demo showing the F015 yielding to a pedestrian, “saying” a short, reassuring phrase, and actually beaming crosswalk symbols onto the road so the person would know it was safe to walk there. Of course Zetsche referred to the old Knight Rider series and its robotic ‘Kit’ TransAm—as his own little robot, named Cambot, looked on.

4. It runs on hydrogen fuel

Clearly this isn’t an afterthought feature. Mercedes-Benz trotted out its first fuel-cell concept in 2011, and it’s putting fuel cells into the F015 as well. But while the 300 miles’ expected range of the Toyota Mirai is already pretty nice, the F015 doubles that to about 683 miles (1,100 kilometers). It’s not all fuel-cell power: That accounts for about 80 percent of the total, while the rest comes from a supplemental battery that can be charged wirelessly.

The F015 doesn’t waste any time. As a concept, it represents a radical evolutionary step. We never know how much will actually end up in a shipping automobile, but Mercedes-Benz certainly deserves credit for thinking big.

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