By Rich Monetti
The Model-T once opened us up to America’s vast reaches but offered little by way of amenities. Fortunately, we soon had windshields to protect from the elements and drivers were eventually reaching for the wiper switch and Top 40 radio dials. A century later, the conveniences astound. Dashboards reminiscent of the console on the Starship Enterprise have become commonplace.
Even so, we’re still constrained and often find ourselves fumbling for the controls, according to Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz AG. “Tech in a car is all about the interface,” he asserted, and Mercedes has literally put the future at arm’s length with its new concept car.
Mercedes-Benz VISION AVTR is the first intuitive gesture control vehicle and arrives from a world we were only just imagining. Inspired by “Avatar” the concept merged Mercedes, and the innovative entertainment brand that delivered the 2009 feature film. Together, the crossover engineered a startling symbiosis between human, machine and nature.
The silver spaceage exterior and glowing woodsprite wheels strike the senses first. The transparent glass doors begin a seamless transition into AVTR’s interior. Opening upward, the sky never recedes, while the spoon-shaped seating nestles like a cocoon. Inside, one need not worry about human frailties such as forgetting the keys. With one hand on the centered control unit, a biometric connection is made by verifying the driver’s heartbeat and breathing.
Now coursing through each other as one, the synergy begins quite literally at the seat of one’s pants. The vitals detected, the leather vibrates at the same rate, and voyagers can sedately retreat into the recline. The symbiosis amounts to more than a glorified stethoscope, though. AVTR recognizes the unique driver via their specific readings. A steady pulse sounds like “kickback” to AVTR, and the vehicle corresponds by offering an autonomous ride or dimmer illumination.
More than mere reflex, higher function arrives with a higher power in mind. Inspired by the Na’Vi’s Holy Tree of Souls on Pandora—the fictitious planetary setting of the 2009 film—the dash offers 3D graphics of the road ahead, historic scenes from around the world and even Na’Vi itself. VISION AVTR is all ears and an image projected on the upturned palm becomes the interface. A gesture away, the right ambient soundtrack may be all that’s needed to smooth the ride.
On the other hand, kaleidoscopic forestry doesn’t always suit the desire, and a driver may want to be one with the reality before them. The transparent overhead keeps the stratosphere in reach, and the same goes for the passing scene. With AVTR’s 33 ionic flaps transmitting the conditions (and optimally supporting vehicle maneuvers), the interior can recreate exterior aromas and the audible sound of the rain or near flying birds. “The VISION AVTR brings the environment into the vehicle and strengthens the bond between human and nature,” according to Mercedes.
But again, AVTR’s automatics let the driver defer. The steering committee at the console can push forward to accelerate, backwards to slow or left and right to weave in and out. AVTR also puts a spin on changing lanes. Hands down, the front and rear axles can steer in opposite directions and produce a sideways crawl. Straight shooting, Mercedes does admit that AVTR will probably never grace a showroom. So why the tease? “Show cars are here to spark our imagination of what’s possible, just like good science fiction movies,” opined Källenius.
Of course, this vision would fall short if it didn’t aspire to the Na’Vi. Reduce, reuse and recycle thus propels Mercedes forward.
“We’re aiming at a carbon-neutral passenger car fleet by 2039,” said Källenius. As for optimizing factory floors, the 10-year goal is a 40 percent energy reduction rate. But the future is already here with plants in Poland and France that run entirely on renewable energy. Similar goals are set for water conservation. By 2030, a 30 percent cut is the target, and fully closed water cycle systems are already being developed.
The same self-contained mindset hopes to put a bow on the battery power inefficiencies. AVTR’s graphene-based organic technology uses no rare earths and metal, and complete recyclable means electric mobility can become independent of fossil resources.
Nonetheless, doing the world right doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel. The DINAMICA leather seats contain recycled material from old clothing, flags and PET plastic bottles.
Not as unsophisticated as it sounds, the slip resistant surface keeps the posterior slide out of the ride, while the cushiony material sinks in a welcoming feeling. In addition, the entering sunshine has the seat’s color-changing back shell fabric reigning blue tints, and on the floor, a fast replenishing Indonesian wood called “Karuun” doubles down the domesticity by radiating warmth. More importantly, these elements reinforce protection of the rainforest and the pursuit of technological awe that has zero environmental impact. A lot to shoot for and maybe a long way off, but Mercedes-Benz and “Avatar” are familiar enough with rarified air to dream, on the verge of science fiction.