Author Topic: Mercedes F015  (Read 1172 times)


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Mercedes F015
« on: March 25, 2015, 10:42:38 PM »

Indeed, the demonstration vehicle in front of me isn't even fully autonomous; it's programmed only to go along a predetermined path on the Alameda runway. Still, the car isn't without technological marvels. "You know KITT? With David Hasselhoff?" asks Klaus Millerferli, a researcher for Mercedes-Benz, a few minutes before our demonstration. "I'll call it over like that." Rather than using a Comlink watch to summon our ride, however, Millerferli takes out his iPhone and launches an app. He taps in the number of passengers -- there are four of us -- to tell the car how many doors to open, and then taps a button to beckon it over. As the car makes its way to us, Millerferli points out that the LEDs are blue, which indicates the car is in autonomous mode. If someone were behind the wheel manually driving the car, the light would be white.

The stunning exterior is also outfitted with cameras, sensors and LEDs so that it can navigate through and respond to the outside world in a way that's mindful of pedestrians and other vehicles. The rear red LEDs can light up to spell out words like "Slow" and "Stop" depending on traffic. If the car spots a pedestrian, it'll project a laser crosswalk on the ground, encouraging the person to go ahead with a gentle voice and lighted arrows. This, according to Mercedes, is just one way the company hopes to integrate the self-driving car into existing society, in an effort to "share space responsibly." "We want to create social perceptiveness and empathy ... so that people are not scared of automated cars," says Alexander Mankowsky, a futurist for the company's R&D department. Self-driving cars, it seems, still need to win human trust.

Once our seatbelts are buckled and the doors close, I notice high-resolution 4K touchscreen displays lining the interior -- they're on the inside of each door as well as the rear wall. Even the dashboard beneath the front windshield is touch- and gesture-controlled. Millerferli is seated in the driver's seat facing forward, where he has access to a slim and compact steering wheel along with two translucent pedals. But rather than driving, he holds down a button and swings his chair around. After all, if you don't need to drive, why not engage in a bit of face-to-face conversation? He taps the touchscreen a few times, hits a button marked "Go" and the car starts to move.

The movement of the car is not exactly energetic. It sort of hums quietly, and I have the feeling of being in a very fancy monorail rather than a top-of-the-line Mercedes. We're told that the car could theoretically hit 124MPH, but we aren't going to experience that in our little route. Additionally, Mercedes engineers are careful to note that the car (which is still very much a research vehicle and not one meant for the public) is very sensitive and vulnerable to inclement weather and high temperatures, requiring a cooldown and a recharge every so often. Indeed, due to the high afternoon temperatures, I find it uncomfortably warm despite the car's air conditioning.



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Re: Mercedes F015
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2015, 06:30:41 PM »