Long the stuff of science fiction, autonomous cars are a fast-approaching reality. Apple, Google and nearly every auto manufacturer has been hard at work ironing out the technology at closed facilities in California and Michigan, and we’ll likely see production models on public streets in as little as five years. But while the driverless future may be promising, judging by the looks of current test vehicles, it’s also pretty bland. The F 015 concept car from Mercedes-Benz, however, is a glorious exception to the rule, offering a glimpse at what our software-chauffeured society might look like in the luxury sector.
A driverless chariot for the leisure class, the F 015 is an amalgam of the classic styling of the flagship S-Class and an interplanetary shuttle. But, as Holger Hutzenlaub of Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design puts it, there’s much more to it than the look. “Time and space will become the luxury of the future,” says Hutzenlaub. “The car will be growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space—a perfect symbiosis of the virtual and the real world.”
In Mercedes-Benz’s reimagined salon on wheels, passenger seats rotate to face each other, and as you glide stress-free with your party down the freeway, a digital particle stream is displayed on interior screens, gently visualizing the movement happening outside. After it drops you at your destination, it parks itself, and when you need it again, you simply summon it with your smartphone. Like a private room on the Orient Express, the F 015 imagines travel as time gained rather than lost, a tranquil respite from the calamity of the real world. It can’t get here soon enough.