The smart vision EQ concept is a self-driving EV built for ride-sharing
In preparation for next week’s Frankfurt Motor Show, Daimler has revealed its latest concept for urban EVs.
The smart vision EQ fortwo is a compact, autonomous EV built from the ground up for car-sharing, and the first vehicle from Daimler to do away with a steering wheel and pedals altogether.
Concepts are notoriously thin on detail, and the EQ is no exception. However, Daimler’s take on “the future of car sharing” seems remarkably well-realised, give or take a few details.
“The smart vision EQ fortwo is our vision of future urban mobility; it is the most radical car sharing concept car of all: fully autonomous, with maximum communication capabilities, friendly, comprehensively personalisable and, of course, electric,” commented smart CEO Annette Winkler. “With the smart vision EQ fortwo, we are giving a face to the themes with which Mercedes-Benz Cars describes the vision of future mobility within the CASE [Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric] strategy.”
The target market would seem to municipal authorities, and while individual owners aren’t ruled out, smart draws particular attention to the potential of the car-sharing market. “Currently, a car2go vehicle is hired somewhere in the world every 1.4 seconds. At present car2go has over 2.6 million customers worldwide – and the number is growing all the time,” it notes. “The latest studies predict that the number of users of car sharing schemes worldwide will have quintupled by 2025 to 36.7 million.”
There are some other interesting digital features too. Swarm intelligence will aid predictability of demand, while self-driving will mean the vehicle always finds the passenger, and not vice versa. The giant panel on the front of the car will enable the user to recognise the service as theirs, and while useful, the execution may leave something to be desired (see the image below).
Again elements seem sensible; for example, nearby users with similar journeys could opt to take rides together using a “1+1 sharing” function (although the option to publish shared interests and recently attended concerts on the car dashboard may disturb those who value their privacy).
Most interesting from a fleet perspective is the promise of the “swarm battery.” Each EQ features a 30kWh battery – probably ideal for multiple, short-length urban journeys. When not in use, the car would automatically seek a charging station. However another option is for vehicles to “dock with the power grid inductively, feed in electricity and act as a “swarm battery”, taking pressure off the grid,” Daimler says.
Unfortunately, nothing more is said on this concept, but it will be interesting to see if Daimler can develop it further.
This particular version of the vision EQ may not make it into production, but it’s safe to say a raft of similar autonomous concepts are on their way. If they display the same level of awareness to the market potential and the demands of users as smart has, many might even stand a chance of becoming reality.