Mercedes reveals self-driving F015 concept ahead of CES

Mercedes reveals self-driving F015 concept ahead of CES

The Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion concept car was revealed on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The firm has showcased its bold vision for the future of the luxury car in an advanced self-driving concept that uses a plug-in hydrogen fuel cell and two electric motors developing a combined 268bhp for zero local emissions propulsion. The F015 is capable of covering the 0-62mph sprint in a theoretical 6.7sec and has a claimed range of 684 miles.

The futuristically styled four-door draws on a raft of new technologies being readied by the German car maker for inclusion on future production models. Featured technology includes a sophisticated autonomous operating system and a so-called digital activity space that Mercedes-Benz predicts will allow occupants the freedom to use their time on the road more intelligently than is the case today, especially in city driving environments.

"Anyone who focuses solely on the technology has not yet grasped how autonomous driving will change our society," said Mercedes-Benz boss Dieter Zetsche at the unveiling of the concept. “The car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space.”

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Described as the most highly developed concept ever constructed by Mercedes, the F015 Luxury in Motion is equipped with an extensive range of state-of-the-art stereo cameras as well as a series of sensors that allow it to permanently monitor the area surrounding it and operate fully autonomously when commanded by the driver, who is then able to concentrate on other tasks.

Newly developed software also provides the swoopy new concept with artificial intelligence, which Mercedes says will be crucial to building trust between humans and cars as autonomous driving is introduced in coming years.

Without any traditional eye contact between the driver and pedestrians in autonomous mode, Mercedes has programmed a series of LEDs within the grille of the F015 to shine when it detects a pedestrian.

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Should the pedestrian wish to cross the road, the concept brakes to a halt and scans its surroundings to check whether it is safe to do so. A laser system is then used to project a virtual zebra crossing on to the road surface while prompting the pedestrian with an audible “please go ahead” message from external speakers.

The self-driving ability of the concept has played a key role in its design, which eschews the traditional three-box silhouette of today’s S-class for a distinctive monobox profile aimed at providing maximum interior space and a lounge-like interior in which the steering wheel automatically retracts into the dashboard when the driver chooses to run in autonomous mode.

At 5220mm in length, 2018mm in width and 1524mm in height, it is 26mm shorter, 119mm wider and 33mm taller than the existing long-wheelbase S-class. In a move that serves to provide it with significantly more interior space, the new concept's wheelbase is a considerable 445mm longer than that of the S-class LWB, at a lengthy 3610mm, giving it ultra-short overhangs front and rear.

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Hinting at the construction techniques planned for future models, Mercedes has provided its latest concept with a lightweight body. Using a combination of carbonfibre-reinforced plastic, aluminium and high-strength steel, it is claimed to weigh up to 40 per cent less than the more conventional aluminium and high-strength steel structures in use today.

New lighting technology also plays a prominent role on the F015 Luxury in Motion, allowing it to communicate its driving mode. The LED units light up in a blue shade when the big saloon is running autonomously and in white when it is controlled manually.

The F015 Luxury in Motion uses conventional front-hinged doors up front and rear-hinged door at the rear – each of which can be opened and closed independently of one another. By employing a sturdy interlocking system with mechanical elements for added rigidity, Mercedes has been able to do away with B-pillars.

In the case of a side impact, elements within the doors inflate to alter the load path and absorb energy. All doors open to an angle of 90 degrees to provide easy access to the interior.

Inside, Mercedes’ designers have provide their vision for a future luxury car for the year 2030 and beyond with a highly contemporary-looking cabin featuring four rotating seats that allow a face-to-face configuration when travelling in autonomous mode and a range of natural trim materials, including walnut wood and white nappa leather together with glass and exposed metal.

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Far removed from that of existing Mercedes models, the hi-tech interior is dominated by six individual monitors integrated into the dashboard, rear and side panels – each featuring gesture, touch and eye tracking functions for easy interaction in what Mercedes bills as a “digital activity space” for up to four occupants.

The F015 Luxury In Motion has been conceived around a plug-in hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain that is claimed to provide a range of up to 684 miles, including around 124 miles of lithium ion battery-propelled driving and some 559 miles on electricity generated by the fuel cell.

Previously shown in the earlier F125 in 2009, it uses two electric motors, each delivering 134bhp and 147lb ft of torque, mounted at the rear and providing drive to the individual rear wheels.

With a total system output of 268bhp and 294lb ft, the powertrain provides the big saloon with a theoretical 0-62mph time of 6.7sec and a top speed limited to 124mph. As well as storing energy produced by the fuel cell, the new concept’s lithium ion battery can be charged via inductive means without the need for a cable.

The hydrogen used to generate electricity on the run is stored at a pressure of 700bar in 5.4kg tanks that are described as being “integrated into the floor to keep them protected from impacts”. Consumption is put at 0.6kg of hydrogen per 100km (62 miles), or the equivalent of 141mpg with a conventional diesel engine, according to Mercedes.