Smart's autonomous concept car literally says "Hello"

Darrell Etherington

Smart's concept of a future autonomous vehicle is, as you might expect from the Daimler-owned automaker, small and adorable. But it's even easier to anthropomorphize than the existing Smart lineup, thanks to built-in features designed to support self-driving, like external displays front and back for communication, and fully transparent doors that looks like two large, wide open eyes.

The concept car, dubbed the 'Smart vision EQ fortwo,' is unsurprisingly tailor-made for car sharing. Daimler talks about its car2go service in the press release describing the vehicle almost immediately, outlining how it has 2.6 million global customers, and sees a rental start once every 1.4 seconds – a number which is steadily growing. The Smart vision EQ's built-in displays are perfect for car2go shared use, and its "swarm intelligence" could make finding and starting a rental even easier.

Swarm intelligence would allow the vehicle to basically be constantly in motion on its own, relocating to where it's most likely needed most based on historical data and demand projection analysis. This would basically allow car2go to operate more like an on-demand ride provider – meaning when you book a rental, the car comes to you.

Smart's vision EQ fortwo has a LED panel right up front, as well as on the rear, and projection surfaces on the sides that can display messages, too. These will let potential customers know if the vehicle is hired, for instance, or even become personalized when someone rents one to display their name so they know for sure it's their car. The front grille panel can also communicate with pedestrians and other cars, displaying turn signals, letting them know it's safe to pass and more.

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Those big glass doors offer an uninhibited view to passengers, but they can also be turned into translucent displays, showing information inward to passengers on board, or displaying info to the outside to onlookers, including weather, news, or potentially even ads (some car2go vehicles now sport advertising decals on occasion).

Smart describes a 1-to-1 sharing method, too, whereby the panels can be used to trigger discovery of nearby users looking for a ride, and flag them down. Paired with the electric battery onboard, which is only 30kWH but designed such that the vehicle would be able to charge consistently on its own between trips at power stations and inductive charging docks, it sounds like the perfect city sharing car.

Basically, Smart's visions EQ fortwo sounds makes clear a lot of the long-term bets Daimler has made with car2go, and what they hope to accomplish with tech improvements in shoring up the weaknesses and major expenses of the service offering right now: autonomy and electrification would answer the biggest challenges, including finding parking, refuelling, and redistributing the fleet to accommodate traffic patterns and demand.

This is still just a concept, but Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz Cars wants to put more than 10 new electric vehicles into production by 2022, and something like this seems a great candidate if it's serious about its alternate mobility programs.

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