The autonomous car is coming, like it or not. But, Mercedes-Benz has a more far-reaching vision for the capabilities of its autonomous vehicles than simply carrying you to your destination.
Your future Mercedes-Benz may also be able to release you from some of your more mundane daily chores along the way.
Among the goals of this technology, Daimler CEO Dr Dieter Zetsche, speaking to the UK’s Autocar, spoke of plans to develop an autonomous fleet that can interact and learn from its surroundings, and commonitace with other networked vehicles.
That system is already in place in Germany with a trial program underway in collaboration with Bosch, where in-road sensors can detect an empty parking space and let nearby connected Mercedes-Benz vehicles know.
But easier parking is just a short-term goal. Dr Zetsche talked of a vision for a suite of advanced services that your car can take care of while you relax on the way to work.
Potentially your car could act as your personal assistant while you’re at work; dropping your kids off to school, picking up your dry cleaning and latest round of eBay purchases, collecting your mother-in-law from the airport - all while you’re at your desk, earning a dollar.
“Everyone is talking about digitalisation and connected cars,” Dr Zetsche said.
“But software alone will not be able to take you from A to B. It is the total package that will take you from A to B.”
Further to high-level automation, the future development of Mercedes-Benz vehicles will include health and wellbeing sensors, to monitor passengers and provide warnings (for health-related matters) or adjust vehicle comfort settings accordingly.
That might be as simple as adjusting the interior temperature, ambient lighting, or seat massage, but the goal is for passengers to get out of a vehicle in better condition than when they got in.
Dr Zetsche refers to these future developments as “time machines” thanks to their ability to free up the time an occupant would otherwise spend commuting, be that for work, entertainment, or relaxation.