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Here's how Daimler is evolving its tiny Smart car for self-driving

Here's how Daimler is evolving its tiny Smart car for self-driving


Concept embraces sharing, self-driving and electric drive

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Smart Vision EQ fortwo Concept
Smart Vision EQ fortwo Concept

There is a lot of the future packed into the tiny footprint of the Smart Vision EQ fortwo Concept.

First, consider it as an evolution of the recognizable Smart-car shape that is a fixture of crowded European cities, or as a white and blue Car2Go vehicle. That’s the sharing aspect right there, as Daimler wants to grow its pool of 2.6 million car-sharing customers while people continuously weigh whether they actually need to own a car for daily functions.

It lacks a steering wheel and conventional driving controls

Step inside and one thing eventually sticks out: there are no controls. The autonomous aspect of the Smart EQ concept is that it lacks a steering wheel and conventional pedals. Previous Daimler and Mercedes-Benz concepts have experimented with joysticks and other non-conventional ways to operate driving functions, but this is a clear sign Daimler, at least, can see that the self-driving car of the future probably doesn’t need to be set up like a driver’s car.

Smart hopes that those of us who like to see our names as we get into a Lyft will also take to this personalized front, where a conventional car might have a grille that can display various messages. Conventional headlamps are replaced by LED panels that can emulate different appearances. Even though the appearance, when blank, is similar to a Smart, there’s a sense that the Vision EQ concept is ready to let go of convention even on the outside.

In the US, Smart is going all-electric as it phases out gasoline-powered models for its electric drive coupes and convertibles. The concept uses a 30 kWh electric motor, which sounds small but could be enough considering its minute dimensions.

Smart is already going all-electric in the U.S.

Still, a Smart that looks something like this and embraces at least some of the ideas shown isn’t too far-fetched. Mercedes-Benz will launch its dedicated electric EQ brand soon and says it will add 10 dedicated EVs by 2022, including a new Smart and a large SUV.

Which means you could be renting this car for a few hours sooner than you think.