At this year’s Frankfurt Motorshow (IAA), smart presents a spectacular concept – plus the matching mobility mode: The new smart vision EQ fortwo is an autonomous, electric, connected vehicle designed for next-level carsharing. We talked to Daimler designers Mohammad H. Aminiyekta and Christian Pecher who helped to shape this vision in their teams.
Before heading to IAA and the motor show’s international spotlight, smart showcased the latest from its development department at the TecDay smart in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart – under the motto “Future Mobility Concept.” This year, the assembled global media were treated to nothing less than a glimpse of the future: the new smart vision EQ fortwo, designed for autonomous driving – no steering wheel required, an electric drive with a 30 kWh battery, plus interior and exterior screens to communicate with users and display their own digital environments. Mohammad Aminiyekta from the department Design Brands and Christian Pecher from the department User Experience Design played a part in shaping the vision of this concept car. We caught up with the two experts at the smart vision EQ fortwo reveal, introduced by Head of smart Dr. Annette Winkler.
Mr. Aminiyekta, Mr. Pecher – when you’re tasked to design a car that’s destined to be the first of its kind, where do you look for guidance and inspiration?
Mohammad Aminiyekta: Anywhere and everywhere, really! We started out with a blank sheet of paper. Early on, we came up with some really wild ideas, since the smart vision EQ fortwo is a concept car. Concept cars allow you to express yourself and incorporate a lot of things that you can’t realize in today’s production cars. What seemed daring before, now makes sense. It gives you a part in writing the future.
Christian Pecher: In the beginning, we had a rough concept. Then we started to dive more into details, sketch, holding workshops that yielded one single vision that we could all work on. In this process, we also did a lot of technology research and collaborated very closely with the engineering team to realize the smart vision EQ fortwo with all its features.
A vision that became reality – this concept car embodies how smart sees the future. When you compare it to the latest smart model range – what is the most obvious difference?
Mohammad Aminiyekta: Well, the smart vision EQ fortwo still features everything smart stands for today as well as what smart will stand for in the future. Most of all, it combines a compact size – it’s just 2.60 meters long – with plenty of space inside. It also has an electric engine, just like the smart electric drive. Visually, one of the most striking differences would be the wing doors. They revolve around the rear axle, making access easier and safer, while also creating an absolutely distinctive appearance.
Christian Pecher: What’s more, we have created something truly new: an autonomously driven, shareable “living room” for the city. Since there are no actual pedals, no steering wheel, and no traditional dashboard, the interior is very spacious. The users are greeted by a single 24″ screen, on which they can view all their digital contents. Outside, the black front grille panel, the projections on the wing doors, and even the lights can be used to communicate with passengers, pedestrians, and the rest of the city.
Mr. Aminiyekta – you worked in the department Design Brands on the exterior design, from initial sketches to the first digital model and later the physical clay model. How did ideas of the future inspire and inform your design?
Mohammad Aminiyekta: We opted for a pure, clean, and consistent design: We imagined a glass ball on wheels, like a piece of jewelry. This inspired us to reinterpret the famous smart tridion cell in a new way. Now, the body panels work together as a shield, protecting the pearl inside. The front draws on the 1st generation smart, with the grille below the headlights, but it has grown up and matured, sporting a pronounced grille that works as a means of communication along with the headlights and the taillights.
Mr. Pecher, this is where you come in: In the department User Experience Design, you work on pilot projects and show cars, trying to come up with new interfaces and user experiences every day.
Christian Pecher: That’s right. In our department, a huge variety of expertise comes together to design innovative contents, concepts, and designs around the car of the future – and to let people experience it today through interactive prototypes. To this end, we use the latest technologies while always keeping an eye on user needs. For example, we’ve integrated a switchable projection foil in the doors that not only protects the customer’s privacy, but also serves as an exterior display area. The lights can digitally change their shape and communicate directly with the user or his environment. What’s more, the black front grille panel greets me with my name and profile picture. From this starting point, right down to several light sources and all the way into the interior, the vehicle adopts a user-predefined color and image scheme.
This new approach must have been a real challenge for the design department. How did you mesh these different worlds?
Christian Pecher: The ongoing development of digital design means that dynamic contents are getting more and more integrated into the physical design, which requires extremely close collaboration between all the involved disciplines.
Mohammad Aminiyekta: The key was that we had one goal from the very first day – to work on a shared vision, to inspire each other, and to develop a holistic concept.
And what’s it like now to see the actual, finished smart vision EQ fortwo?
Mohammad Aminiyekta: I am really excited. From our initial sketches on paper, right at the very beginning, and the wonderful collaboration throughout with the UI team, engineering, and everyone else who worked hard on this show car, the car has finally come alive. And we can be very proud of the outcome! It is quite an emotional moment because you get emotionally involved with the project during the design process. It is like seeing a baby being born.
Christian Pecher: I agree. It’s so nice to see everything coming together in the end.
We will certainly be discussing the smart vision EQ fortwo a lot more in the future. But let’s wind up today’s interview with a final question: Does the smart vision EQ fortwo exterior herald a new smart design language?
Mohammad Aminiyekta: What you see today is our vison of the future – let’s say of 2030+. Regarding a new smart design language – just let the future surprise you …