VISION AVTR: The Road Test

My name is Felix. I am a Danish TV host and car fanatic. I have been invited here to California
to drive the new Mercedes-Benz VISION AVTR. It is right there in the hangar.
And you are invited to come along to the future. This must be the control unit, wow. I have a thousand questions now, so maybe it is time to bring in the designers. Well, I am here with Gorden Wagener,
Chief Head of Design at Daimler. Was that correct? Chief Design Officer. That was almost correct. Chief Design Officer.

But the most important thing is that, Gorden, this car is something you authorised. What is the vision behind this car?
What is it supposed to be? We wanted to create a vehicle
that is not alien to its environment, that is almost a part
of the ecosystem of the environment and we actually did not want to create a vehicle. It should be almost something like a living organism. I think you succeeded in that because it does not feel like a car anymore, except it has four wheels.

Actually, it can crawl sideways.
– Really? Yeah. 30 degrees sideways.
– But why? Because we did not want to have conventional wheels. These wheels, they look more like an animal paw. Soft and, you know, gentle. But when you look at this car, what is it that you see as a designer? First of all, I think it looks very futuristic
thanks to those super futuristic proportions. We wanted to create something that is
very efficient looking, something that is almost bio-design,
in harmony with nature. So, it goes very gently through the wind. In terms of materials, there are a lot of recycled materials. So, we have the Dynamica, which is fully recycled. We have this Karuun wood,
which is fast growing rattan, very sustainable. We have all this fabric which is ocean-waste plastic. So, from the material side,
this is completely sustainable. And of course, our vision is the 100% sustainable car. And that car should embody this.

Should we sit inside, maybe?
– Yeah, let’s do that. You want to go on that side?
– Yeah, sure. So, actually the first moment is that wake-up moment when you get into the car and the car wakes up. So, you see, all those lights, they come alive. And then you start that merge moment
and we connect with this merge device here. Then of course, you can steer the car
forwards, backwards, left and right. And then, when you want to crawl sideways, you tilt that.

So, there is a sensor in there as well? Yeah. And actually, if you see it, it goes up and down, like the car is breathing. And then it boots up and you see the screen. And now we are actually flying
through the world of Pandora. This is so cool about this project,
as we are stepping even out of the car industry and go into a different industry
or merge with a different industry. In this case, entertainment,
one of the biggest entertainment companies. And for me, I see Mercedes-Benz not really as a car brand, I see it as a leading luxury brand. In fact, we want to make it the most loved luxury brand. And projects like that,
with corporations from other fields, bring us so much more inspiration
that we can elevate what we do to a different level. Can we drive? Let us go on a drive! Let us take it out for a spin. And you haven’t driven it before? – No. It is your first time now? Ok, let’s see. Let us move it slightly forward, okay? Okay.

We are rolling! Yeah, but steering wheels are so last year. So, we can try crabbing mode a little bit. Wow! So, another cool thing is, the co-driver can take over. So, you have it? Just try it. – I am driving. This is so cool. So, Vera. You were the head designer,
lead designer on the user experience of the car, right? Yes, correct.
I am the Director of Advanced User Experience Design. Exactly, that is you. So, when I saw it, the first time I saw it, I went over to it and I had this feeling that it was trying
to communicate with me. You know with the flaps and the lights and all. So that was your department? Correct. So, everything what you see and hear, we have done.

When I get into my 2020 Mercedes-Benz,
there is a lot of linguatronic, you can talk with the car. This one: You don’t talk with it. No, we don’t talk. – You interact with it. Yes. Imagine, once you talk to a car,
it is more issue and command, you know. We want to reduce this idea and say,
“Hey, this element is more like a skin of ourselves.” Like a digital membrane of ourselves which influences us and can amplify the experience to our outside world. We have a more dialogue-based system and of course machine learning can already do a lot of things. But we are trying to let the living organism
start approaching the human, and not we as a human approaching the machine, which is very different. Should we go inside?
– Yes, let us do it. You want to sit in the…? Which way? I do not care. Both is fine.
We can steer the car from both sides. True, I will take the other one. – Cool.
– You go in there. So, what do we see? We don’t see a steering wheel, we don’t see buttons, we don’t see touchscreen, no paddles.

No. But on the middle console, we see a device. We call it merge control. And what we see, it pulsates. And once you want to connect to the machine, we put down our hand. What happens in my seat? You feel the vibrations of the exciters,
you feel the heartbeat, it is my heartbeat now. And now we are connected to the system. So, normally you as a human, you approach the car. So you steer the steering wheel, you touch the screen, you give a command. But we did it very differently in the Mercedes-Benz VISION AVTR. In the Mercedes-Benz VISION AVTR you raise your hand and symbols are projected onto your skin. We are not touching the display anymore
or pushing a button. But what I do is, I raise my hand.
You can do the same thing on your side. And then I move left and right and you see that icons are projected onto my skin, onto my palm. – Yes. So, all your senses are triggered, not only the visual one, but also the haptic one and the acoustic one.

And then let us go to Pandora. Should I close it? – Yeah! And then we select the Benji maybe. And you see how that turns pink,
and now you look through the eyes of this Benji. You feel the heartbeat
and you see what the Benji would see. In this sense, this experience, that the car
is really starting to approach you with interfaces, is very new and unique and it has not been done before. Yeah, and then, you know at the same time,
make it look as luxurious as this is. This is the future of luxury. I think you see how the exterior,
the interior design and the UX design come together as one whole art piece, almost. When you, as a department, think of stuff like this, then, of course, everything you think of is not possible.

So, you have a meeting with somebody
from the technical department that actually tells you whether this is possible or not. Our engineers are very creative people,
very knowledgeable. And only as a collaborative team
– designers and engineers – we can come up with these really functional prototypes. It is very important it is functional,
it is not fake, it is really working. I do not quite understand all of it, but you did a good job. That is great! Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am here with Alex Dang.

He is a designer at Mercedes-Benz, and he is actually the one who drew the lines for the Mercedes-Benz VISION AVTR. Hi Alex! – Hi. So can you first tell us how such a vision begins? In an internal competition, where everyone
can show their vision how they see the car, what it could look like. And right from the beginning, we were all sitting together and watching the movie, basically in a cinema. And while watching the movie, I did some scribbles and was thinking about how I can implement some shapes from the movie into the car. And then you actually won the competition? Yes, it was a long process. Internally it is a competition but,
in the end, it is like a team effort. Because you get some ideas and the others get ideas and the designs keep getting better. So how much time did it take you to put the first line on the drawing until the design was ready? It was two years, I would say. Was it difficult for you? Sometimes it comes naturally
and then sometimes it is a struggle, but you have to deal with it
and trust the process in a way.

Because in the end,
there will be something cool coming out of it. If you feel too comfortable, then you are
too much in your comfort zone, I would say. And I think creativity is
about getting out of your comfort zone, which doesn’t always feel nice, but then it can create something new, something stunning. Push the limits.
– Push the limits, exactly.

So, you came up with the idea for the wheels? Yes. I watched the movie and I saw the wood sprites and I thought, why not try to implement those into our Mercedes-Benz VISION AVTR. What was the biggest challenge for you
on the design of this car? I think the biggest challenge for me was
to combine the best of both worlds, like this science fiction AVATAR world into our reality. And still make it recognisable as a Mercedes-Benz. Let us move to the back. – Yeah. Because these flaps make the car come alive. What is the story with these? We have 33 flaps and the main functions are aerodynamics, communication and also the expression.

Because with the aerodynamics, the main idea is to modify the surfaces to change the aerodynamics in the way you want or need. And the second is the communication aspect: You are sitting in the car driving it. The first time, you can show your intentions to the outside. Whether you are accelerating, you are braking, or you turn. So, everything will be manifested to the outside, through the omnidirectional flaps. And the third is, because it is an artificial intelligence, it is like a living object. It also has emotions that can be expressed
to the outside through the motion design. What do you think it drives like? I think it would drive like something you have never experienced before.

So crazy! I can imagine waking up in my bed now like,
“Oh this is just a dream.” – Yeah. Dude, that was amazing! It really works! You drove your own car. That was nice!.

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