The Mercedes F-015 Benz isn’t a typical concept car, some lightly pretense version of next year’s sedan complete with peppy amusement electronics and pleasant-tasting taillights. Instead this Mercedes is a leap into the future, a car so different and provocative that it leaves you feeling vertiginous, as if you’d taken a ride in Doc Brown’s time-traveling DeLorean DMC-12.
Mercedes-Benz couldn’t have picked a more appropriate venue to demonstrate the F-015 Benz Luxury in Motion, a distant-future vision of what a fully autonomous car could eventually look like. We’re standing with a group of other journalists at one end of a dilapidated runway at the Alameda Naval Air Station, a vast expanse of concrete and weeds that has remained essentially unchanged since the military base’s closure in 1997. Stupendous overseas merchant ship glide by in the channel a few hundred feet to the north, back-dropped by the hazy silhouette of San Francisco’s skyline several miles away. Myth-Busters is known to film here, because you can have an explosion or a crash go horribly wrong and it doesn’t really matter. It’s basically a scene from Mad Max.
We have to admit that gyrating around a derelict aircraft runway in the Mercedes-Benz F-015 isn’t exactly a futuristic experience. Even so, it did help us understand that this concept car introduced at the 2015 show is about more than just the latest technology for autonomous driving. Instead it’s a demonstration of what the future will feel like and why autonomous driving will seem like a very good idea in 2030, no matter what you might think about it now. The Mercedes-Benz F 015 is about the future, not just autonomous driving. It sees a time when humans and automobiles must share space, and this will call for new thinking when it comes to personal mobility.
As it turns out, autonomous driving seems like the right response, since it leads the way to interaction between humans and automobiles that is safe, efficient, and even potentially rewarding in terms of taking road rage out of the driving equation.