Daimler’s self-driving concept car turns into mobile living room

The race for being the first car maker to offer true autonomous driving just hit the fast lane as Mercedes-Benz unveiled its futuristic F 015 concept at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Daimler Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche, introduced the fuel-cell powered luxury car at the automaker’s keynote address on Monday evening (January 05). The car’s arrival on stage drew applause from the standing room only crowd as the doors of the car were opened to reveal that it was driving itself.

Zetsche explained that the promise of autonomous driving will change society and the way we think of the car.

“As I said, 30-years ago I was seeing these pictures and dreaming about these cars,” said Zetsche. “Now to be part of the realization is fantastic. We have a responsibility because we are a company that invented the car. So we should be the one to reinvent the car and that is exactly what we are going to do.”

The F 015 luxury sedan concept, with its spacious cabin and lounge-like seating for four, explores new possibilities for self-driving cars that can double as virtual living rooms on wheels. And in keeping with Mercedes tradition and the concept’s “luxury in motion” theme, the post-modern passenger space is trimmed in walnut veneer, nappa leather, polished aluminum and glass, with soft blue LED lighting.

Mercedes credits its “Extended Sense” sensor system as the intelligence behind the car’s autonomous ability. It permanently monitors the road in a 360 degree radius, through the use of stereo cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors.

And while various semi-automated features are currently available in vehicles on the road today, Zetsche told Reuters that autonomous driving is still a decade away.

“Next decade,” said Zetsche, when asked when he expects the driverless cars to be on the road. “We have already significant pieces built into our cars in the showroom today. So, they are autonomous up to 15 miles per hour now.”

Mercedes-Benz is among a growing number of automakers who’ve travelled to Las Vegas in recent years to take part in CES, with hopes of showing off the growing synergies between technology and the auto industry.

“I think we see the merge of several worlds, the techs industry, the Internet and the automotive industry,” said Zetsche. “These two worlds merging is like a smart phone on wheels or you can say it’s a car that has many capabilities of smart phones and computers and so on. This merger of these two worlds is best expressed here at the CES.”

The 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show is one of the largest trade shows in the world attracting more than 150,000 visitors.

It opens on Tuesday (January 06) and runs through Friday (January 09).