When the future of the car is discussed, it’s often said that one must decide: Electric motor or combustion engine? Own or share? Drive or be driven? Man or robot? At Daimler we see things differently. We are convinced this is not “either or.” That’s why we’re doing one without neglegting the other.
We’re currently showing what that means in more concrete terms at the International Autoshow (IAA) in Frankfurt with two vehicles which could not be more opposite.
The future of urban car sharing
One end of the spectrum is our smart vision EQ fortwo. It’s a concept car that shows the possibilities of linking the four future-themes connectivity, autonomous driving, sharing & services and e-mobility. All of which we call “CASE”.
Connectivity in this sense means you can order and operate this car completely via your smartphone. There is also a connection between vehicles. If, for example, you have too much luggage you can simply order a second smart and it will follow you. And it will do so completely on its own.
This smart needs neither steering wheel nor pedals: It drives autonomously at level 5. These smarts will be on the road in swarms so you’ll never have to wait long for your ride. Intelligent algorithms and artificial intelligence analyze usage patterns so that a swarm will move in timely manner to wherever vehicles will be needed in the near future.
In a city such as Berlin, about half as many intelligently controlled, self-driving smarts could cover today's mobility needs. Or you could think of it the other way around: With today's number of car2gos twice as many people could be individually mobile.
S for sharing remains the central CASE letter for this car. You don’t just share the vehicle. If you want you can also share the ride. On the way you’ll get a message that someone heading in your direction wants to go along with you. You confirm and share travel expenses, too.
The smart does this based on two principles, which are actually mutually exclusive: sharing and personalization. What I will share is usually not very personal. And I will seldom share very personal things. Here it’s a bit different. As long as you use this smart, it will fully adapt to your preferences. If you want it to be green on Monday, it arrives in green. If you want it in red on Tuesdays, it comes in red.
There’s no question that the city car of the future will be electric and emission-free. We are thinking in terms of an inductive charging concept. We introduced emission-free mobility with the smart fortwo electric drive back in 2007. That’s why we’re now taking the next step: We plan to convert our entire smart brand in Europe and North America to electric drive by the end of the decade. The rest of the world will follow shortly thereafter.
The future of Driving Performance
But we also said we’ll do one and the other. That’s why our second highlight at the IAA is something really different: The Mercedes-AMG Project ONE. It was born on the Formula 1 racetrack. The goal here is cutting-edge technology that delivers the best lap times. And is street legal. We expect a top speed of over 350 km/h and acceleration from 0 to 200 km in less than 6 seconds. A 1.6-liter V6 combustion engine and four electric motor hybrid system provide a calculated output of more than 1,000 hp, along with an all-electric range of around 25 kilometers.
This vehicle proves how exciting hybrid technology can be. Thermal efficiency is more than 40 percent. Normally it’s about one-third in the best case. We also aim to recover about 80% of the braking energy and direct it to the batteries.
Since the start of this project I’ve come to even better understand why one calls such a car a "Hypercar". Because I’ve never experienced as much hype as I have for this Mercedes in 40 years! Last fall we showed just a vague silhouette at the Autosalon in Paris. By the next morning the first prospective customers had already called AMG to order a car. And since then the phone in Affalterbach has hardly stopped ringing ...
The smart and the AMG are very different. Yet both make one point: For most of us the car had always been about more than just the ride from A to B. It always meant a bit of freedom and personal independence. The paradox: The incredible success of the automobile is also its biggest problem. Roads and cities are getting fuller, oil and other resources are becoming scarce and availability will be more important than ownership.
That’s why our most important task goes far beyond the reinvention of the automobile. It is about the reinvention of personal independence. There is not just one solution. And that's just fine.