At this year’s Frankfurt Motorshow (IAA), the smart vision EQ fortwo lends the future a tangible face. The autonomous, electric, and connected vehicle was designed to drive the evolution of carsharing: Swiveling wing doors invite us into a new era of mobility.
“Hi, Kate and David!” a 44-inch screen beckons, adorning the futuristic front of the smart vision EQ fortwo in place of a regular grille. Silently, the electric vehicle glides to the sidewalk and folds up its wing doors over the rear axle. Automatically, the passengers’ personal digital profiles show up on the car’s interior screens, while Kate sets the colored glass doors to shift from translucent to opaque – to insure privacy.
What might sound like distant science fiction promises to be routine for generation Y children. By 2030, they might no longer need driving licenses, but use cars like the smart vision EQ fortwo, Daimler’s first ever autonomous and electric concept car.
Inside, traditional trappings like steering wheel, pedals, dashboard, and center console are replaced by a flexible lounge with 24-inch LED screen and two personal 4-inch displays on the sides, optimized for presenting a fully networked and connected personal digital environment of social media, messenger services, games, movies, or music.
Electric drive, programmable screens, and digital headlights
Naturally, the first design study under the moniker of the new Daimler product and technology brand EQ is powered by an electric drive, marking the logical continuation and evolution of the current smart electric drive fleet. At the same time, it is the drivable implementation of the Daimler strategy CASE, combining the aspects “Connected,” “Autonomous,” “Shared & Services,” and “Electric.”
The smart vision EQ fortwo comes with an optimized lithium ion battery with 30 kWh capacity. When not active, the vehicle autonomously heads towards the nearest hub to recharge. Alternatively, the vehicle can dock with the power grid inductively, feed in electricity and act as a “swarm battery”, taking pressure off the grid. smart is assuming the role of a key player in the coming energy revolution.
Yet the smart vision EQ fortwo experience even starts before we enter the vehicle: Programmable projections on the specially foliated glass doors and the car’s frontal black panel grille can display individual messages, greet the passengers by name, communicate with pedestrians in traffic, or simply show useful local information like the latest weather forecast or traffic updates.
The car’s digital head- and taillights are equally icon- and UI-ready, able to communicate things like free parking spots, the charging level, traffic signals, or potentially dangerous situations. The frames of doors and windscreen glow in a hue to match the riders’ chosen mood.
Made for the evolution of carsharing
Developing the smart vision EQ fortwo involved intense, focused research into how our cities might look and operate 15 years in the future. Experiences and data culled from car2go, a pioneer of free-floating carsharing with 2.7 million customers around the world, also helped to shape and refine the concept model.
Paired with plenty of expertise in building today’s perfect urban car, this allowed smart to take the carsharing idea that decisive step further, turning the driver into a user – and the actual drive into an experience.
“The smart vision EQ fortwo is our vision of future urban mobility,” says smart CEO Annette Winkler. “It is the most radical car sharing concept car of all: fully autonomous, with maximum communication capabilities, friendly, comprehensively personalisable and, of course, electric.”
To this end, the smart vision EQ fortwo interior and exterior were optimized for vehicle sharing, including screens and personal device controls. The software accesses the users’ personal profiles to facilitate a completely new kind of communication between the car and its passengers – and among the passengers.
Here, the UX – or user experience – already familiar from other digital media not only includes current carsharing functions, but also so-called 1+1 sharing, i. e. a new take on the ride sharing concept. In 1+1 sharing, the first user decides whether to invite other passengers to share the ride.
The smart vision EQ fortwo screens can be used to manage such requests, or – during the actual ride – display either shared contents like games and shared interests or separate contents on split screens.
The secret highlight: Despite its open, overreaching sharing principle, the vehicle welcomes and accommodates each individual customer with customizable colors and screens, thus becoming a true private retreat within the busy city.
Fleet coordination through swarm intelligence
The smart vision EQ fortwo is no one-off. Via car-2-x communications (i. e. networked connections between the cars and the surrounding traffic infrastructure), the entire vehicle fleet can be coordinated to ensure that it optimally covers a city’s demand-driven mobility needs.
The car learns to identify times of high demand, i. e. during rush hour, at mega events, or when it starts to pour. The main advantage: Future users won’t need to look for the next available vehicle – it will find them instead. And thanks to the fleet’s swarm intelligence it is probably just a block or two away.
In tomorrow’s city, the emission-free and super-networked smart vision EQ fortwo will be the world’s smallest chauffeured car. And in 2030, Kate and David might think back to 2017 – the year new urban car use was born.