Remember when the radical idea of car sharing in urban environments started to gain a foothold as drivers figured out they didn’t need to own cars to drive around occasionally. Now, with Smart’s new concept Fortwo, you may not even need to be a driver to drive around occasionally.
The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo Concept is an electric autonomous vehicle made for the urban ride-share programs in which Smart is a prime player with Car2Go. In theory, the autonomous concept could pick up its passengers/hires from their chosen locations (except for the part about requiring a licensed driver at the wheel during street driving). Mind you the concept doesn’t have a steering wheel. Or pedals.
It may be far-fetched, but it’s part of Daimler’s CASE strategy — which stands for Connectivity, Autonomous driving, Shared use and Electric drive — and will be responsible for putting 10 new electric vehicles on the road by 2022. The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo will be officially presented to the public at the 2017 IAA Frankfurt Motor Show.
“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 personalizable and, of course, electric,” said 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 front “grille” panel and LED headlight displays can be used to communicate with other road users (such as pedestrians looking to cross the road), drawing information from the GPS or Mobile device. Other displays include the LED taillight displays and the doors, which are coated with a film that displays when the car is in “service,” and local events, news headlines or the weather forecast when it isn’t. Also, the car can connect with other users/cars through the instrument panel display.
The primary benefit of the autonomous shared ride is that users no longer have to go online to search for the nearest available car because the Smart Vision EQ Fortwo will find them after they log on. The other benefit is storage — since the cars are always on the go, they don’t need parking lots in which to wait for their next hire. Mind you, they will eventually have to stop and recharge their batteries.
There are currently over 2.6 million Car2Go customers worldwide, and studies predict that the number of ride-share users will reach 36.7 million by 2025. Having cars seek out and deliver themselves to users, will eliminate cars sitting unused in certain lots, while some users aren’t able to obtain cars when they need them.
When not in use, the Smart Vision EQ Fortwo will find its way to a charging point, presumably where it can charge its 30-kWh lithium-ion battery wirelessly, since there won’t be a driver to plug it in.
As for the car itself, it’s instantly recognizable as a Smart Fortwo, with the wheels pushed to the farthest corners of the body, leaving virtually no overhang front or rear. The display-doors open rearward, wing-like for easier access to the interior, to save space in which to open, and to provide added safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
The wide-open white interior features a lounge-like leather bench for two, with a retractable centre armrest console for stowage. More stowage space is available under the seat cushion or in the floor. There are no controls, with functions handled through a mobile device or through voice commands.
“The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo embodies the urban luxury of the future. It is a radical approach with a cool and minimalist design,” concluded Gorden Wagener, Daimler’s Chief Design Officer. “A multiplicity of digital surfaces inside and outside allows the next level of communication between human and automobile. The customer is able to personalize the vehicle according to their individual needs.”