The Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas is the place where the automotive industry showcases their latest achievements in automotive innovation. This year at CES 2020, Mercedes-Benz presented an innovative collaboration with film director James Cameron. Inspired by the film Avatar, the Mercedes Vision AVTR was unveiled.
The Daimler Central Board proudly announced to the world public that the electric Mercedes Mission AVTR has completed its first successful test. The vision of the future, which resembles a glowing flounder, was accelerated via remote control on a closed-off area of the famous Las Vegas Boulevard, shielded by the police, to the previously unattained top speed of an estimated 11 km/h (7 mph).
This ride represents the fourth successful test drive of a Mercedes-Benz prototype. Already at CES 2015, CES 2018 and CES 2019 three remote-controlled predecessor models accelerated to more than 5 km/h. Here are historical images of the test drives of these groundbreaking technologies:
The Mercedes Vision AVTR technology works in such a way that the vehicle is in communication with the helmsman via an electronic radio link. From a control panel in a following car, the helmsman carefully and expertly steers the Mercedes Vision AVTR driving in front of him. The speed and direction of the vehicle can be carefully influenced by means of levers and knobs. One knob even serves to switch the lights on and off.
The specially trained test pilots in the vehicle and the helmsman did not take the preparations for the high-risk test lightly. For months they had been training how to bring the vehicle to an immediate stop in dangerous situations by pressing a large red button. During the intensive training program, they also rehearsed countless times how to operate the illuminated tires and seats, how to switch on the radio and change the volume. The danger of the new type of drive train which is based on the highly inflammable and barely tested chemical-electric battery-technology, should not be underestimated. But success is only for those who dare!
Before the test, the test pilots bid farewell to their families in a heartbreaking moment, hoping for a good outcome of the dangerous test. The Daimler Central Board had even prepared two different press announcements, one for the case that an accident and thus the death of the pilots might occur. The Mercedes-Benz brand, which stands for absolute safety in automotive engineering, has once again shown how seriously this issue is being dealt with. Emergency services from local police and ambulance services were standing by, and bed capacity in the nearby hospital had already been rented, and the medical staff was on high alert.
The visionaries of the future at Daimler even say that this could be the first step towards a self-driving vehicle. This is the previously unimaginable technology that could allow an electronic brain to steer a car independently in the distant future. Daimler experts predict that the first autonomous vehicles could be tested as early as the next three decades. To do this, however, the legal framework would first have to be prepared. But that is not within Daimler’s power. In any case, the company is already preparing for this, and rumor has it that a first computer has already been ordered. Daimler experts have also been spotted investigating which funding sources of the German government can be tapped.
However, there are also skeptics at Daimler about the necessity and feasibility of this technology. For example, an internal survey among employees found no one who did not like driving. Most think it is just a temporary hype that will never happen. “Where are all the helmsmen who follow and steer a remote-controlled car all day long going to come from?” was the most common answer in the internal survey.
The progressive design of the car also catches the eye. The Daimler-Zentralblatt magazine applauds the innovative artistic form, which is based on the Daimler manifesto of Purpose, and which, with the power of action and on the shoulders of the employees, advances the mobilistic society. As in the film Avatar, the illuminated tires and glowing seats are intended to signal to the females the potency and mating power of the males in the vehicle.
In an independent report, videos by residents surfaced in Chandler – a suburb of Phoenix in the US state of Arizona – that show autonomous Waymo vehicles, without a driver or passenger on board, driving in traffic over the past couple of months. The autonomous robotaxis navigate complex traffic scenarios, such as police cordons after an accident and school zones with groups of school children crossing a crosswalk, completely independently and without anyone on board of the vehicle. The following video shows multiple of those scenarios:
This article was also published in German.