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.
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.”
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
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
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.
Melissa Riofrio spent her formative journalistic years reviewing some of the biggest iron at PCWorld--desktops, laptops, storage, printers--and she continued to focus on hardware testing during stints at Computer Currents and CNET. Currently, in addition to leading PCWorld’s content direction, she covers productivity laptops and Chromebooks.