Smart is the latest automaker to unveil a self-driving pod car

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Daimler’s Smart brand will use next month’s 2017 Frankfurt auto show to preview its vision for personal transport of tomorrow.

The preview is in the form of the Smart Vision EQ ForTwo concept, a fully self-driving electric pod car ideal for shared urban mobility. Some readers will recall that Mercedes showed a similar concept in 2015 in the form of the F015, but Smart’s version is devoid of a steering wheel and pedals, the first time a vehicle from German auto giant Daimler has been designed in such a fashion.

It’s all part of Daimler’s corporate strategy known as CASE, an acronym for Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric. These are the four main pillars that define the automaker’s strategy and vision for the cars of tomorrow. The Vision EQ ForTwo is actually the first car to combine all four pillars, as detailed below:

Connected: A fleet of Vision EQ ForTwos could circle around town, with individual cars driving to locations entered in a smartphone by someone needing a ride. The panel at the front of the car will greet the rider. There could also be two riders, should there be a friend or perhaps someone else heading in a similar direction, thus boosting efficiency and reducing usage costs.

Smart Vision EQ ForTwo concept, 2017 Frankfurt auto show

Smart Vision EQ ForTwo concept, 2017 Frankfurt auto show

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Shared: Since no individual owns the Vision EQ ForTwos in the fleet, each will be shared with anyone registered to use one. One of the factors that makes car sharing popular is that it is spontaneous and flexible. The car does not have to be picked up from or taken back to a specific location. It can be hired and left anywhere in the designated “home” area. Daimler already offers such a service with its Car2Go program, though right now you still have to do the driving yourself.

Autonomous: Since the Vision EQ ForTwo is a fully self-driving car, more of the public, such as the elderly or vision impaired, will be able to use it, not just licensed drivers. And the cars will be able to operate 24 hours a day. This makes the utilization rates much higher than current cars which on average are used less than an hour each day. And as more people start relying on car sharing, the number of privately owned cars will likely be reduced, leading to less traffic and more free parking spots.

Electric: The Vision EQ ForTwo is fully electric. It features a rear-mounted motor powered by a 30-kilowatt-hour battery. When not in use, the car makes its way independently to a charging station to load up with new energy. Alternatively, the cars can dock with the power grid wirelessly (via induction), feed in electricity and act as a “swarm battery,” taking pressure off the grid.

The Frankfurt auto show starts September 12. In the meantime, learn about some of the other cars set to appear by visiting our dedicated hub.

 
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