Mercedes-Benz has received some shit lately over the new Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio, which doesn't jibe well for the tiny car subsidiary, which intends to sell only electric vehicles starting in 2018. But electric Smart cars make perfect sense — they're meant for cities after all — and a new autonomous all-electric Smart concept shows how they can work in a future robotcar-dominated world.
Called the Smart Vision EQ ForTwo, the Daimler Group feels it takes a "logical step" toward jettisoning a steering wheel and pedals. It's pegged as an all-in-one mobility option — an all-electric, fully-autonomous ride that can be hailed by passengers looking to get around town.
The car's design looks like it was made with downtown cores in mind, however quirky some of the concepts may be. Instead of a sleek grille, for example, there's a display panel that can greet passengers with pleasantries. "Hey David," one example reads in a photo of the concept. Next to the greeting, there's a photo. (That's surely one way to cut down on people getting in the wrong Uber or Lyft.)
The car clearly has ride-hailing or car sharing services in mind; Daimler mentions its car2go platform in a press release announcing the concept car, saying it can rely on "swam intelligence" — an idea that the car can constantly be in motion and called upon where needed — to make finding a ride easy.
Those transparent doors may seem a bit off-putting, with an uninhibited look inside. Smart says they're coated with a film that can be activated by touch and display information to passengers in the car. The wing doors pivot over the rear axle, making for what Smart says is easier access into the car.
If the car's unoccupied, basic information — current events, the weather — could be displayed outward. The grille on the front can communicate to pedestrians on the road when it's OK to cross, that the car's en route to a destination, and can show if only one or two car passengers are inside (because options like UberPOOL or Lyft Line are apparently permanent in the future).
The interior has a minimalist, roomy appearance that's appropriate for a fully-autonomous car. Without a steering wheel or pedals, the center dash is left with only a wide 24" screen that sits inside a gold frame. It's futuristic and carries a cool, blue-heavy colour scheme. (For a car that Smart says will have "unprecedented" individualization, I'm wondering if things could be brightened up in the interior.)
The lounge seat looks like something out of a modern office, or maybe IKEA. Smart says it allows for two passengers, and if, say, both occupants are trying to catch a pooled ride around town, there's a retractable armrest to create some sort of barrier on the seat.
It's still a concept, but it's sensible for Smart. If fully-autonomous cars are going to be on the road by next decade for ride-hailing purposes, a compact Smart vehicle seems like an obvious suitor.