Mercedes-Benz thinks the future of autonomous driving could look a lot like a 10-year-old movie.
The German luxury automaker unveiled a unique new concept car, which is influenced by the 2009 blockbuster sci-fi movie "Avatar" and designed with the input of Academy Award-winning director James Cameron, at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
Called the Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR, the futuristic concept car is meant to be both sustainable and autonomous. The car features a 110 kilowatt-hour electric motor that can produce 469 horsepower and a range of roughly 435 miles.
The car doesn't have a steering wheel, as Mercedes and Cameron instead imagine the car's center console would recognize "the human driver's heartbeat and breath so man and machine literally merge into a fully intuitive experience," Mercedes said in a press release. ("Avatar" featured an alien race that is able to merge their minds to create symbiotic relationships with one another as well as with nature.)
The Vision AVTR would establish "a biometric connection with the driver," according to the release.
Though the Vision AVTR's exact technology does not exist, biometrics in cars are real: Hyundai introduced biometric sensors in the Santa Fe SUV in 2018 that could scan a fingerprint to turn on the car and even adjust seat position and mirrors to the driver's specifications.
With regard to sustainability, the Vision AVTR would hypothetically be powered by battery technology using graphene, another technology based in reality.
Graphene, which was discovered in 2004, is the strongest material in the world, yet it's also the thinnest and capable of stretching like rubber. In 2018, researchers at Spanish startup Earthdas found that graphene could be used to make batteries that charge 12 times faster than lithium-ion batteries (currently used for most electric car batteries, such as Tesla's), though no graphene-based car battery currently exists on the market.
Mercedes-Benz also said the Vision AVTR's graphene-based battery's materials would be compostable and completely recyclable. (Graphene has been found to be biodegradable.)
The supercar would have "transparent door shells" and an interior made from recycled materials (like "old clothing, flags and PET plastic bottles") and vegan leather, which is already used in other luxury vehicles, such as the interiors of the 2020 Range Rover Evoque and the Jaguar I-Pace SUVs. It's wheels would glow (inspired by the "Tree of Souls" from the movie, which glows in response to the movements of nearby beings) thanks to LEDs.
The car would also drive not only forward and backward, but sideways and diagonally, according to Mercedes. This detail may become a reality too: In 2016, Goodyear introduced spherical concept tires, called the Eagle-360, that could one day allow autonomous vehicles to drive sideways.
The latest concept car from Mercedes-Benz does fit in with some of the directions the German automaker is looking to take in the more immediate future in terms of electric vehicles and autonomous driving.
In September, Mercedes introduced an all-electric concept car called the Vision EQS that would have a driving range of about 435 miles from a 100 kilowatt-hour battery pack. Two months later, the company announced plans to sell an electric Mercedes-Benz EQC starting in early 2020 at a price of $67,900. The electric SUV is expected to compete with Tesla's planned Model Y SUV, which will start at a price of $39,000 when it becomes available in 2021.
And in December, Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler said it was testing a ride-hailing service using self-driving technology in Mercedes-Benz S-Class cars in San Jose, California.
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