Urban vehicle specialist, Smart, has unveiled its vision for the future of mobility with a futuristic pod-like EV packed full of autonomous driving technology set to go on show at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
Despite having beat a hasty retreat from the Australian market, Smart has maintained a European presence where the brand’s super-compact two-seater formula is an ideal fit for congested city centres where parking is at a premium.
With the Vision EQ Concept Smart has adapted technology from parent company Mercedes-Benz into a smaller, more accessible package, which according to Smart’s chief operating officer, Annette Winkler, will become a production reality as part of Mercedes-Benz’s Car2Go car sharing program by 2030.
“The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo is our vision of future urban mobility; fully autonomous, with maximum communication capabilities and electric,” says Winkler.
Despite its compact dimensions the Smart Vision EQ packs in advanced Level 5 autonomous driving abilities and connected ‘swarm intelligence’ which Mercedes-Benz predicts will allow car sharing fleets to become more convenient and efficient by better anticipating the predictability of demand at any given time.
“In the future car sharing users will not have to look for the next available car, it will find them and collect passengers directly from their chosen location,” says Winkler.
The Vision EQ concept is more than just a pointer to the brand’s future technology, however, with Smart hinging its growth plans on the back of a predicted rise in car sharing program participation in major urban centres.
Another clear signal of the brand’s future direction is the Vision EQ’s rear mounted electric motor and 30kWh lithium-ion battery allowing over 300 kilometres of range, with Smart expected to shift its entire range to electric power with an announcement expected at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show.
From a styling perspective the Vision EQ maintains a hint of influence from the brand’s current models, with a stubby bonnet and visible safety structure the most notable carry-overs, but a more fluid form, and massive rotating all-glass doors dominate the new design.
At the front a display set into the bumper can convey messages to hirers or other road users, while inside the interior gets a minimalist makeover, ditching a traditional set of driver controls and instead offering up a massive central screen for entertainment and information on the go.
User will be able to book a ride via a smartphone app, with the Vision EQ capable of disconnecting itself from a charge point and meeting customers at an agreed point. Once inside the primary customer can allow ride-sharing with fellow travellers via the booking system.
Once inside riders can opt to leave the windscreen and doors clear, or block out the outside world with onlookers treated to a display of news, weather, or advertising via the projection surfaces on each side of the vehicle.