Talking to the UK publication Autocar at the IFA consumer electronics show, Daimler CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche says he’s thinking big for the future; and he doesn’t mean just cars that park themselves. According to Zetsche, Mercedes-Benz is hoping to create fully autonomous cars that finish your to-do list and make you get out of your car “in a better condition than when [you] got in.”
For one thing, Zetsche told Autocar that Mercedes-Benz is already working on automated databases where cars sense empty parking spaces as they drive, and share where those empty spaces are with other cars. But that’s just the beginning. You car knowing exactly where to find the nearest empty space is all well and good, but according to Autocar Zetsche wants to make a car that drops you off and then takes itself to that space. Or maybe it goes and picks up your groceries. And then your kids from school. And when it picks you up, it’ll adjust the environmental settings to lower your blood pressure, which it will be monitoring.
Beats getting candy from your Uber driver! Autocar reports that Zetsche hopes to create cars that help their owners, “carry out chores and tasks,” and “improve their quality of life.”
Despite the fatal Tesla crash earlier this year, self driving cars already exist and only await finishing touches on the technology and the proper regulations before they start showing up on your street. From Google to Ford to BMW, everyone seems to be developing one or testing one or planning one. But don’t go burning your driver’s license just yet. Like any other technology, there is a plenty that happens between the capabilities existing and and the products becoming readily available, and you don’t have to be a car maker or a lawyer to predict that the laws and regulations around self-driving cars will be a nightmare to straighten out. Maybe by the time all the red tape is cut, advanced amenities like the ones Zetsche talks about will be available.
Mercedes-Benz envisions a near future where traffic congestion will become a big enough problem that people will want to opt out of manual driving in favor of getting work done or relaxing during their lengthy commutes. And, of course, if it can drive itself with you in it, who’s to say it can’t drive without you? No more trying to find time to pick up a relative from the airport, or rushing to the dry cleaners before it closes. Just send your car! And if you absolutely must physically sit in your car (perish the thought!) it will adjust the air temperature, lighting, and even give you a massage according to what its sensors detect you may need. Studies show that commuting times are only getting longer, and if your city doesn’t have public transportation (and even if it does) all that time goes down the drain. What if you didn’t have to wait till you got in your door to start relaxing after a hard day at work, or if you could get through all those emails on the way to the office?
This technology will do more than help you get through your Netflix queue on the freeway. Elderly people and those with limited mobility who cannot safely drive themselves will have more freedom to live their lives. Health monitors that can tell if you’re too warm may be able to detect more serious health problems before they get out of hand.
The ability to send your car to pick up and drop off things and people will make life easier for working parents raising kids with busy schedules. Sci-fi perks are fun, but these technological leaps do more than provide little added conveniences; they can change lives.
For the time being, Zetsche tells Autocar he wants to see what steps can be made to make cars “time machines, to hand time back to let you do what you want.” Certainly those steps will be fun to watch, and lovely to think about the next time you’re locked in traffic or languishing in a subway car.