Any urbanite looking for a clean, convenient way to get from A to B in the future needs to rethink urban mobility. Electric and autonomous vehicles promise to play starring roles – joined by the third dimension.
This forecast might sound more daring than it actually is: Over the next decade or so, the way we move across the city and country will change more fundamentally than it has in the past 50 years.
There’s a lot more untapped scope for electric and hydrogen drives – and for ways to reach our destination by air, on the water, or below ground using clean, sustainable modes of transport. Yet wherever technology might take us: The sheer number of transport options keeps growing. From this pool of choices, we’ve picked eight mobility visions we’d most like to see (and use) sometime in the next decade.
smart vision EQ fortwo – the autonomous lounge
An island of tranquility during rush hour? Inspired by this idea, bright minds developed the smart vision EQ fortwo. While the electric concept car retraces the iconic proportions of the smart fortwo, it is all about autonomous driving – you won’t spot a steering wheel or pedals. Instead, the model delights with plenty of displays and even windows designed to show information and multimedia content, making the smart vision EQ fortwo the ideal carsharing vehicle of the future.
Or your own personal retreat. By the way: If you’d like to know how the brain of a self-driving car actually works, how it thinks and steers, you’ll enjoy the latest project by moovel lab, the interdisciplinary mobility think tank by Daimler. Equipped with a VR headset, a joystick, and the right sensor data, it challenges you to guide a car through virtual urban traffic.
Mercedes-Benz F015 – the luxury saloon of the future
What about longer trips? That’s where the research vehicle Mercedes-Benz F015 might come into play. With its combination of fuel cell and battery-powered drive, the autonomous vehicle easily covers 600 miles without a single stop. And since a driver is no longer needed, the spacious interior is designed to resemble a sophisticated lounge with four leather swivel seats and contrasting glass, metal, and warm wood accents. Passengers can simply lean back and relax – protected by the car’s high-strength body for optimal safety.
Cyclotron – a bike like no other
Spokes? Hubs? Flat tires? All those are soon things of the past. While still pedal-powered, the Cyclotron’s rims and all-plastic tires rotate seemingly effortlessly thanks to the bike’s progressive power transmission.
Luminous details – reminiscent of the “Tron: Legacy” aesthetic – add great visual appeal and make the Cyclotron safer to ride. For an added futuristic safety feature, look no further than sharp laser lane markings projected straight onto the road. The first examples of this wonder bike should be ready to ship by April 2018. And the company already takes pre-orders at USD 1,400 a pop.
Mercedes-Benz Vision Van – the clever way to deliver
With more and more people ordering goods online (and no end to this trend in sight), efficiency is key in shipping and delivery to keep the overall number of vehicles in check. With this in mind, the electric Mercedes-Benz Vision Van is designed to be part of a fully-networked delivery chain: Depending on the day’s computer-optimized delivery route, the cargo hold is fitted with automatically pre-loaded shelf systems.
On arrival at the delivery address, the driver only needs to take the right package out of the outlet slot and deliver it to the recipient. Or he can even skip this step – and task one of the van’s two on-board delivery drones to drop the package instead.
Mercedes-Benz Future Bus – magic eyes take strain off the driver
Cyclists, pedestrians, blocked tracks, surprising lane changes – and a tight schedule. In busy, narrow metropolitan streets, driving a bus can be incredibly taxing. The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus takes some of the associated mental strain away: Thanks to several radar systems, GPS, and almost a dozen cameras, it can drive autonomously – safely sticking to the right lane and route down to the last centimeter. The bus also recognizes obstacles, safely crosses traffic lights, and knows how to navigate in a tunnel. The anticipatory technology makes the entire journey more efficient, calm, and pleasant for all involved.
Seabubbles – escaping congestion across the water
With cities bursting at the seams, it’s high time to explore mobility options that we’ve previously more or less disregarded. In cities like Paris, Prague, or London, this could involve autonomous, electric boats – like those championed by former world class sailor Alain Thebault.
His electrically powered Seabubbles glide across the waves on so-called hydro foils, i. e. small wings attached to the hull of the vessel. The boats are charged right at the pier, using solar power, and might soon be a common sight: Thebault’s first prototype already completed its maiden voyage in 2017 on the River Seine.
Hyperloop – the below ground, low pressure option
Faster than planes and cheaper than trains – that’s the promise of Hyperloop. The technological premise of this ambitious project: Passenger capsules, floating on air cushions and surrounded by negative pressure to minimize drag, race towards their destination in underground pipes.
The pioneers of the project estimate top travel speeds in excess of 650 mph. According to Virgin founder Richard Branson, Hyperloop is currently in the early stages of commercialization. And he should know what he is talking about: His Virgin Group recently invested in US-based company Hyperloop One, which is currently in the process of developing and testing the first unmanned Hyperloop capsules.
Volocopter – up-in-the-air commuting
The sky’s the limit? Not if traffic visionaries have their way – after all, shifting at least some of the everyday traffic burden above street level could help to alleviate metropolitan transport issues. One tool to explore and exploit the sky for this purpose is the so-called Volocopter.
This autonomously flying, electricity powered and vertical take-off multi-rotor helicopter by German company E-Volo recently completed its maiden flight in Dubai, in September 2017. If everything goes according to plan, the innovative two-seater could become a regular mode of transport by 2021. It sounds like the perfect choice for our daily commute – or a quick trip to the restaurant, depending on “parking” options.