Mercedes-Benz has frequently pushed the boundaries of automotive design and technology with its exotic Vision Concept vehicles, and it’s reaching even further with the Vision AVTR debuting at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show.
If the name strikes a resonant chord it may be because the German automaker had a helping hand from James Cameron, the Hollywood director behind one of the most successful films in movie history, “Avatar.”
“Not only is it beautifully designed but it will create a closer connection with the driver and the environment around them. One that hopefully results in a better understanding of our responsibility to the world in which we live,” said Jon Landau, the producer of “Avatar,” who joined Cameron during the debut of the AVTR concept on Monday night.
There’s more than a subtle connection between the AVTR – which is short for “Advanced Vehicle Transformation” — and the Banshees, the flying vehicles used by the movie’s cat-like Na’Vi people.
The Mercedes concept, which debuted during a keynote speech by new CEO Ola Kallenius, is intended to have an almost organic link to driver and passengers.
From the outside, the rear of the four-door sports car-styled AVTR features fully 33 movable “surface elements” that not only appear to bring the concept to life, but also actually have a functional purpose. They can improve aerodynamics while also generating energy when the AVTR is moving.
In turn, that power is stored in a new graphene organic battery that eliminates many of the traditional metals, like cobalt used in current lithium-ion technology. One of the drawbacks of modern battery technology is that they are difficult, if not impossible, to recycle. But Mercedes claims the cells used in the AVTR would be compostable.
As one would expect, the AVTR uses a twin-motor all-electric drive system producing a combined 470 horsepower. It is said to have a range of 435 miles between charges. One of the system’s more interesting features is its ability to “crab,” or spin up to 30 degrees by turning the motors on its front and rear axles in opposite directions simultaneously.
The focus on sustainability is apparent throughout the AVTR concept. Among other things, it replaces leather, a classic luxury hallmark, with the microfiber Dinamica, which is made of recycled materials. And while there’s still wood inside, the automaker turned to a fast-growing and sustainably harvested Indonesian material called Karuun.
As with the Avatar Banshees, the Mercedes Vision AVTR is designed to intuitively link driver and vehicle. Place your hand on the glowing central controller and it will read your pulse while allowing you to operate many of the prototype’s functions. When you lift your hand, the concept vehicle projects onto its palm a list of different functions.
One thing you’ll likely notice is the absence of a steering wheel, the Vision AVTR designed to be fully autonomous.
Lifting another page from the film, Avatar, the AVTR concept is meant to focus on family, and it can tell if there are kids onboard. If so, it displays a menu so parents to let them monitor what the youngsters are doing in the rear. And they’ll have plenty of options, including the “Magic Pool,” an assortment of augmented reality games and experiences influenced by the sci-fi movie.
“The interior of the Vision AVTR becomes an immersive experience space and conveys a completely new user experience,” the automaker explains.
Director Cameron made a bit of news during the reveal saying that he is preparing to release the long-awaited sequel to Avatar, although offered no real specifics.
The concept vehicle is easily the most radical in the growing series of Mercedes Vision concepts. While some elements could eventually see production, the AVTR is more like something bound to become a theme-park ride, however.