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What just happened? Now that self-driving tech is becoming more commonplace, and even flying cars are a reality, what's left for concept cars that showcase potential vehicles of the future? Mercedes-Benz answers that question with the Vision AVTR, a "living creature" that forms a physical and mental connection with its driver, kind of.
If you think that sounds like something from James Cameron's Avatar, you'd be right. The 2009 movie heavily influences the Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR; according to the press release, it forms "a biometric connection with the driver."
That bold statement covers a few ideas: firstly, the car uses biometrics to identify the owner. That's not an entirely new concept; Hyundai introduced a fingerprint scanner in the Santa Fe SUV in 2018, letting users start the engine with their fingerprint. But the AVTR goes a step further. A driver needs to just place their hand on the center console, which will power up the vehicle upon recognizing their breathing and heartbeat patterns.
Mercedes revealed the AVTR back at CES 2020. At the IAA Mobility 2021 show in Munich, Germany, the car is being shown off with a new trick: mind control. As reported by TechRadar, users must wear a BCI device with wearable electrodes on the back of their head that turns thoughts into action. It takes "a short calibration process of around one minute," after which drivers can perform certain functions without physical movement.
Rather than just thinking about something to make it happen, users need to focus on light points on the digital dashboard. The system recognizes which one is being looked at, triggering a preset function.
"The BCI device measures the neuronal activity at the cortex in real-time. It analyses the measured brain waves and recognizes on which light points the user directs [their] focus and full attention (attention-sensing interface)," said Mercedes.
"The stronger the focus, the higher the neuronal activity. The device then triggers the targeted function in the vehicle."
As this is an autonomous vehicle—naturally—it could be possible to select preset destinations using just your mind (well, your eyes, really), and moving through music tracks would no longer require the arduous task of stretching out one's arm to touch a button, or using something as tiring as voice control.
Mercedes previously revealed that its car features a 110 kilowatt-hour electric motor capable of producing 469 horsepower. It also has a very impressive range of roughly 435 miles. The graphene-based battery is compostable and completely recyclable, making it eco-friendly—the AVTR also features a vegan leather interior, which is made from recyclable materials. Best of all, it can move diagonally and sideways in addition to forwards and backward, making parking a lot easier. And fans of RGB lighting will doubtlessly love all the exterior LEDs.
As with any concept, the Vision AVTR isn't going to be here anytime soon. But maybe it will arrive before Avatar 5's scheduled 2028 release date.