Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a new smart vision EQ fortwo urban mobility concept vehicle. This autonomous, flexible-use, public transportation vehicle is an on-call taxi cab that requires no driver. The car can be individualized by its passengers through smartphone connections and front grille and side panel projectors. The show car is the first vehicle from the Daimler Group to take the logical step of dispensing with a steering wheel and pedals.
The EQ fortwo will debut at the Frankfurt International Motor Show next week alongside more than ten new plug-in, electrified vehicles at the Mercedes-Benz booth. Those other vehicles are almost all slated for production by 2022 and most of them are battery-electric.
“The smart vision EQ fortwo is our vision of future urban mobility; it is the most radical car sharing concept car of all: fully autonomous, with maximum communication capabilities, friendly, comprehensively personalisable and, of course, electric,” says smart CEO Annette Winkler. “With the smart vision EQ fortwo, we are giving a face to the themes with which Mercedes-Benz Cars describes the vision of future mobility within the CASE strategy.”
The CASE strategy is Connected, Autonomous, Shared/Services, and Electric. The new EQ fortwo falls into those concepts, says Daimler, in the following ways:
Shared: The smart vision EQ fortwo is a new vision of car sharing. Because transforming “urban traffic” into “city flow” in future will not only benefit the users but the public at large too, cities and municipal authorities are also a target group for future car sharing concepts from smart. Currently, a car2go vehicle is hired somewhere in the world every 1.4 seconds. At present car2go has over 2.6 million customers worldwide – and the number is growing all the time. The latest studies predict that the number of users of car sharing schemes worldwide will have quintupled by 2025 to 36.7 million. One of the factors that make car2go so popular is that free- floating car sharing is spontaneous and flexible. The car does not have to be picked up from or taken back to a specific location. It can be hired and left anywhere in the designated “home” area.
Autonomous: The smart vision EQ fortwo concept vehicle demonstrates how autonomous driving could make future car sharing even more convenient, simple and economically efficient. Thanks to swarm intelligence and autonomous driving, the smart vision EQ fortwo heralds a new era in car sharing: users do not have to look for the next available car – it will find them and collect the passengers directly from their chosen location. And thanks to swarm intelligence and the resulting predictability of demand, it will probably already be nearby, making the journey to pick up a “hire car” a thing of the past. The interconnected vehicles are always on the road. Utilisation increases and at the same time the amount of traffic and the number of parking spaces required in urban areas are reduced.
Connected: The smart vision EQ fortwo is summoned using a mobile device. New individualisation options help users to recognise that it is “their” vehicle: the Black Panel at the front (size: 44 inches/105 x 40 cm) as well as large projection surfaces at the sides allow the smart vision EQ fortwo to be personalised. LED displays in place of the headlamps can echo a classic look (from sporty to neutral) or take on an eye-like shape, which allows the vehicle to communicate on a more human level. The rear lamps can also have a conventional look or provide detailed information – for example warnings or traffic information. The front radiator grille serves on the one hand to add a personal touch and on the other to communicate with other road users (e.g. information for pedestrians crossing the road). The doors of the show car are coated with a film that can be activated as required. If the car is unoccupied, information about local events, the weather, news or the time can be displayed. The smart’s Black Panel Grille indicates whether the car is occupied by one or by two passengers.
Those who want can use the 1+1 sharing function to make contact with other interesting users. Possible passengers are suggested on the basis of their saved profiles and current travel plans, and can be accepted or rejected. When two passengers are on board, the large display in the interior shows shared interests such as concerts they have recently attended or sports that they play. The extra time gained as a result of travelling in an autonomous vehicle can be used to chat and interact.
Electric: The smart vision EQ fortwo features a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 30 kWh. When not in use, it makes its way independently to a charging station to load up with new energy.
Alternatively, the cars can dock with the power grid inductively, feed in electricity and act as a “swarm battery”, taking pressure off the grid. smart is playing a key role here in shaping the energy revolution.
Design: urban lifestyle of the future
The smart vision EQ fortwo (length/width/height: 2699/1720/1535 mm) is a cool two-seater and, like all smart models, scores with a maximum of room in a minimum of space. The vehicle communicates by means of a Black Panel Grille and LED displays, which replace headlamps and tail lamps.
The side windows are covered with a special film onto which information can be projected from inside. The front area of the interior features a Black Panel Display for user interface activities.
“The smart vision EQ fortwo embodies the urban luxury of the future. It is a radical approach with a cool and minimalist design. The show car has the hallmark smart proportions, with accentuated, pronounced wheel arches at the four corners and with no overhang,” says Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Daimler AG. “A multiplicity of digital surfaces inside and outside allows the next level of communication between human and automobile. The customer is able to personalise the vehicle according to their individual needs.”
Exterior: hallmark smart proportions, new door concept
The exterior is like a piece of jewellery with a receptacle symbolically encircling a precious pearl. With the “one-and-a-half box” design, the pronounced, powerful wheel arches and the short overhangs at the front and rear, the proportions are typically smart.
The new door concept is a distinctive feature. To save space, the two doors pivot wing-like over the rear axle, making access easier and creating a fascinating architecture. The door concept also reduces the danger of collision with cyclists and pedestrians.
Rose gold-coloured, three-dimensional elements in the wheels and in the diffuser allude to the electric drive system and create a bridge to the hallmark EQ design. The side windows have a tapering hexagonal look.
The clear, future-oriented exterior design is reinforced by white metallic surfaces and dark-tinted glass surfaces. In a contemporary and technological manner, the smart plays with colour on the exterior by means of a large number of display graphics.
Interior: generous space, intelligent stowage
The colour scheme of the smart vision EQ fortwo features a cool and futuristic look which is combined with warm touches of rose gold.
The show car is the first of the Daimler Group’s vehicles to take the logical step of dispensing with the steering wheel and pedals. The vehicle functions are controlled via personal mobile device or voice input, an arrangement that is intuitive, convenient and hygienic. Dispensing with conventional control elements makes the white interior appear even more spacious. The dashboard is replaced by a 24-inch (58.5 x 15.6 cm) screen which is surrounded by a rose gold-coloured frame. The outer edges feature two smaller displays (four-inch), which can be used by the smart vision EQ fortwo for example to say “Welcome”.
Covered with a new, innovative and high-quality man-made leather, the white seats are easy to clean and therefore compatible with the idea of sharing. The lounge-like bench seat offers room for up to two passengers. If required, a retractable centre armrest creates a separation between the occupants or serves as a stowage facility. The white interior creates a generous impression of space.
Further, intelligent stowage options are available on the floor and under the bench seat. Luggage and personal accessories can be secured under blue rubber tightening straps.
A large number of digital surfaces both inside and outside allow a new level of communication between human and automobile with regard to all aspects of autonomous driving and car sharing. The vehicle’s colours and screens adapt to its customers, offering a private sanctuary in the bustling city. The user is thus also given the possibility to personalise the vehicle and adapt it to their needs.
Aaron is an automotive journalist living in Wyoming, USA. His background includes technology, mechanics, commercial vehicles, and new vehicle evaluations. Aaron is a member of several automotive media groups and writes for many well-known publications.