Mercedes Goes Avatar While Sony Eyes Up Automaking

Mercedes has unveiled a concept car at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, with the car featuring no steering wheel and ‘bionic flaps’ on the rear.

These bionic flaps look similar to scales on a reptile, and can interact or communicate with the driver through subtle movement, according to the German automaker. However, since the car has no steering wheel, with Mercedes imagining an autonomous future, whether the driver is ‘driving’ the car is questionable. 

Instead of a steering wheel, the car has an oval-shaped controller that rises up and out of the center, floor-mounted unit between the seats. Once a passenger puts their palm on the controller, it and the seats start vibrating in sync with breathing and heart rate of the person holding the controller. Furthermore, passengers can have the menu projected directly onto the palm, in a science fiction vision of how to control a vehicle’s various infotainment functions.

It also has a graphene-based battery, which Mercedes says is completely free of heavy metals, making the battery recyclable and reusable, and hence better for the environment and not reliant on lithium mining or fossil resources.

Mercedes collaborated with film director James Cameron, who directed 2009’s Avatar. Subsequently, the car’s design was inspired by the world Cameron created for Avatar, with the film lending the car its name – AVTR.

In other concept car news, Japanese tech company Sony has also shown off its Vision S concept in Las Vegas. It has 33 sensors for autonomous driving functionality and recognising people both in and outside the vehicle. Externally, it has a sleek sports car look, with cameras for wing mirrors, flat, in-line door handles, a lightbar at the front spanning the width of the vehicle and aerodynamic cooling vents on the front fenders. 

Internally, it has a big screen that covers the entire width of the dashboard, with more screens for the camera-driven wing mirrors and various vehicle controls, including three for the two rear passengers.

The drivetrain has been built in collaboration with automotive supplier Magna, along with Nvidia and Continental, which opens more questions. Does Sony plan to mass produce the vehicle in the future? Is the company aiming at entering the auto industry in the future? We don’t have answers for any of these questions, but it shows how tech companies are branching out into the mobility and transportation space more than ever before.

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