Published on November 9th, 2015 | by Subhash Nair


Mercedes Imagine The future of Transportation

How will the automobile of the future become a means of transport between reality and cyberspace? This is one of the questions which Mercedes-Benz discussed with engineers, designers, scientists and journalists at this year’s Future Talk event. After Utopia and Robotics, the third Mercedes-Benz Future Talk was dedicated to virtual reality: the virtualisation of the vehicle interior as a new perception horizon in the mobility of the 21st Century.

Under the motto “Going Virtual – the Automotive Experience of the Future”, representatives from Mercedes-Benz discussed the role of virtuality in the digitised automobile with journalists from various media and interdisciplinary experts. The experts at this year’s Future Talk included Anke Kleinschmit, head of corporate research at Daimler, Ralf Lamberti, responsible for User Interaction and Connected Car at Daimler, Cade McCall, a psychologist at the Max-Planck Institute for cognitive and neuro-sciences in Leipzig, Alexander Mankowsky, future researcher at Daimler and Prof. Erich Schöls, interaction designer and scientific head of the Steinbeis research centre for design and systems in Würzburg.

At the beginning of this year, at the CES show in Las Vegas, Mercedes-Benz presented some initial ideas to show how comprehensively in-vehicle virtualisation can be realised – the F 015 Luxury in Motion provides an outlook on the virtualised interior and the possibilities it opens up. The car becomes a mobile part of the Internet in which many interior surfaces act as a graphic interface and source of information.

At the Future Talk Mercedes-Benz has shown exemples of the various possbilities in a three-dimensional simulation: Passengers can see their current surroundings in daylight, even though they are travelling at night, or they can make advertising billboards and noise protection embankments disappear for an unobstructed view of their urban or rural surroundings.

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They can travel in time during a journey, and view the Brandenburg Gate, for example, not in the here and now, but as it was on 9 November 1989. If required they can bring information about interesting buildings or current trends in a city and amongst its inhabitants into the car, obtain a bird’s-eye view of a city or make a virtual switch-over into another vehicle to have a look around at the destination. And those who wish to work, take a break or hold a relaxed conversation might choose some purely virtual backdrop which echoes their present mood.

Professor Erich Schöls of the Steinbeis research centre for design and systems also argued in this direction. He referred to the previous history of such experiences. Enhanced or completely generated perception models are not really new. The first trailblazing experiments in this direction go back to the 1950s, when pioneers such as Fred Waller, Morton Heilig or Ivan Sutherland began investigating stereoscopic images, interaction models and scientific questions on the effects of reality simulations.

According to Schöls, in recent years hardware has become widely available which allows a far-sighted view of what we can expect in the foreseeable future.

However, Schöls also drew attention to the acceptance barriers that virtual technologies have still to overcome: “Although extended reality applications are increasingly establishing themselves in industry, culture and society, many people still feel slightly unsure about immersion into completely artificial environments.” The professor is however sure that these hurdles will be overcome as time passes: “This will soon change with increasingly useful applications and further technological improvements. People will come to appreciate cyberspace as a useful and interesting enrichment with enormous potentials.”

Besides futurology, there are further departments at Daimler concerned with bringing virtuality into the vehicle of the future – for example at Digital Graphic & Corporate Design under Prof. Klaus Frenzel, or the development department Digital Vehicle & Mobility under Sajjad Khan. But the focus at Daimler is always on one thing: the specific benefits that a technology brings for people.

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Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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