Mercedes steers towards driverless, lifestyle cars
German automaker Mercedes has offered a glimpse of what the car of the near future might look like – and possibly the greatest news is you won’t always be in the driver’s seat because you’ll get to relax in luxurious style on the way to your destination.
The company released a concept design of the interior of a driverless car and it features four stylish seats that swivel so that passengers can face each other, with a small coffee table between them. On long journeys, media, such as films, can be shown on screens and at any time, the driver-position seat can be swung around to take over manual control of the vehicle.
The thinking among executives is that at a time when many accidents on the roads, deadly or otherwise, are caused by driver error, why not let a car’s computer and myriad sensors take over; after all, computers have long since flown commercial aircraft, extremely safely. Plus, why waste hours in boredom and frustration when driving yourself when you can relax and enjoy the journey instead, or even work?
Motoring analysts say there’s no doubting that driverless cars are coming – perhaps sooner than we realise – but what it will mean in terms of insurance is anyone’s guess right now. Mercedes has already been testing a driverless research vehicle, called the S 500 Intelligent Drive, and in 2013 it managed to successfully complete an almost 100 kilometre journey that involved what Mercedes called “dense traffic and complex traffic situations”.
Internet giant Google is also on track with driverless cars, and has been testing a number of existing models fitted out with laser and other technology and its specially designed driving software – aptly named Google Chauffeur. Two years ago the company said it hoped to have its driverless vehicles available to the public by 2017, but it’s understood that currently the system doesn’t work in adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rain and snowfall, and is unable to recognise temporary traffic signs, such as those used for roadworks, humans or even the mundane pothole.
The motoring future may well be driverless, but it seems it’s going to be a long road ahead.
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