Mercedes-Benz yesterday revealed a concept for a driverless car at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The F 015 Mercedes concept car has four seats, including the driver’s, that can face each other, rather than the road. Six screens allow passengers to monitor information about the vehicle and the outside world, using technology that responds to eye movements and gestures.
Automakers are racing to develop self-driving cars without steering wheel or brakes that safely transport commuters in congested urban areas. Google revealed its working prototype driverless vehicle in December.
Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche said: “We have a master plan in place to take the big leap required getting from technically feasible to commercially viable. The F 015 Luxury in Motion [concept] demonstrates where this may take us.”
Meanwhile, Ford’s CEO Mark Fields said an automaker will introduce a self-driving vehicle within five years, but it won’t be his company, which is focusing on less expensive features that assist in driving.
“Fully autonomous vehicles are a real possibility,” said Fields before the Las Vegas show. “Probably, in the next five years, you’ll see somebody introduce autonomous vehicles.”
Instead of being the first to sell autonomous vehicles, Ford wants to “democratize” technology that assists drivers throughout its model line, offering it at prices even economy-car buyers can afford, said Fields.
General Motors said in September it will introduce hands-free driving technology on a Cadillac within two years. GM CEO Mary Barra said at the time that having a car drive for you is “true luxury.”
Self-driving cars are being developed for densely populated urban areas which have been thoroughly digitally mapped so that the vehicles’ sensors can read the road, other cars and the environment, saidRaj Nair, Ford’s product development chief. As more of the world’s population moves into big cities, autonomous cars are aimed at reducing congestion because they can adjust for each other’s speed differences more precisely, flowing through streets like schools of fish.
First, though, government regulators around the world need to come up with new rules of the road for vehicles that drive themselves. Ford is already speaking with regulators to help them prepare for driverless cars, said Fields.
A record 10 automakers are showing their technology at CES. In addition to self-driving cars, auto and tech companies are displaying dashboards covered in curved touch-screens, vehicles controlled by smartwatches and entertainment systems operated with a wave of the hand.