Within five years, self-drive cars will be zooming around our cities acting as luxury lounges, offices and even bedrooms.

Effectively, they’ll be extensions of our homes.

Giving weight to this view is the Mercedes-Benz F 015, a self- driving concept car recently unveiled at Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show.

Dubbed “Luxury In Motion”, the car drove itself — through traffic, into the exhibition centre and on to the stage.

Another car, an adapted Audi A7 Sportback, drove autonomously the 885km from Silicon Valley to get to the show.

Such cars have sensors and cameras all around their bodies so computers can analyse where to go, what to avoid and even how to park.

The family car is now considered the fourth platform in our technology-driven society alongside the smart home, high-tech office and personal mobile devices.

These are all being linked via wi-fi and internet to make our lives less tedious and stressful.

With the hands-free car you’ll no longer need to go to the garage to get it.

You’ll simply call it up using a handheld or wrist device.

Like a pet it will come to you and probably greet you with a human voice.

And while the greenies may forecast the demise of private transport as traffic gridlock gets worse in our cities, Mercedes-Benz begs to differ.

The car maker argues the car will become the must-have luxury item of tomorrow.

In a keynote speech at the CES, Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche said within 10 years the annual production of cars would be 100 million — that’s 270,000 a day.

The F 015 is like a luxurious private retreat.

The future cars will be a luxurious private retreat for occupants.

They will chill out in luxury interiors and may even opt to sleep, closing out the world with virtual blinds on touch-sensitive windows.

That’s technology demonstrated by Samsung two years ago at CES.

As with many leading car makers, Mercedes-Benz now uses this show to unveil its new prototype technologies instead of motor shows, such as the current one in Detroit. Indeed, there were 10 car makers at CES.

In his presentation, Dr Zetsche, painted a picture of car occupants passing the time using dual- purpose car windows and door panels as touch screens to process emails, Skype, Google or just play games.

While other technologies absorbed our time, self-drive vehicles would give us back quality time.

Mercedes-Benz likens the F 015 to travelling first class on a plane — sit back, read a book, watch a movie, sip a glass of Champagne and let the car worry about the traffic.

While the F 015 retains a steering wheel, for the occasion when an owner might like to punt the car around a few bends, any of the four occupants can control the car from their seat.

It gives a whole new meaning to back-seat drivers.


Merc F015The Mercedes-Benz F 015 concept car drove itself to the Las Vegas show.

Among the car’s myriad high-tech features is a head-up display which can be controlled by a flick of the eye or a twitch of your finger.

LED lights that decorate the grille on this car also provide communication to pedestrians.

If the car stops at a pedestrian crossing the radiator lights up and encourages pedestrians to cross by moving its lights from left to right. This is one of the tricks future cars will use to make them appear more human.

Mercedes-Benz says the only fly in the ointment of this sci-fi future is insurance.

Without a driver, who do you blame if there is an accident?


IMAGES: Mercedes-Benz website


© The West Australian

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