The Mercedes-Benz F015: A critical step in transportation

I know that before I can have my flying car technology will have to prove it can handle itself without the decision-making tampering of a human being. There is no other way that such a thing could work; ordinary citizens are not able to pilot a vehicle that transports itself through the air as a collective mass. It would have to be a mobile living space that takes the fear of flight completely out of the hands of the consumer. Such technology currently exists, but for the psychological emergence of it, the machinery would have to display itself in a form that is currently understood and accepted—the automobile. Cars would first have to display how they can navigate themselves into mobile living centers instead of driver induced vehicles moving from point A to B. Once driverless cars become common, then the same technology could move into personal skycars which take off from a driveway and land wherever intended. I dream of the day where I can get into such a vehicle from my driveway and fly directly to Disney World in Orlando Florida in the same morning, sleeping reading or writing the entire way. Such a trip might occur at 6 AM only to arrive at the point of destination before noon and without the travel fatigue typically involved. To my eyes, the bridge to get to such a technological breakthrough is the new Mercedes-Benz F015.

It is hard for me to see the driver beginning to be irrelevant in the automobile. I love driving—I’m extremely good at it, and I love the independence of the American car the way it has emerged in culture within the United States. It should be obvious from my novel The Tail of the Dragon how much I love cars, hot rods, and racing in general. I have a feeling my reverence for cowboys and westerns will soon find with it the American car driver as something to remember fondly. For many years I have enjoyed driving cars excessively fast. I remember a day when fixing up a car and cruising around on a Friday night just to show it off was something people did—and I loved it. But it’s not lost to me that it’s a dying trend and I can see the benefits of a car that drives itself.

Consider the possibility of the new Mercedes-Benz F015. Say I wanted to make that same trip to Disney World from Cincinnati with my family. To travel to such a place I would need three of them—so say I did and we were all vacationing together as we tend to do—and while in transit we wanted to play video games together or just have conversations instead of waiting until the next rest stop. We could activate the interior panels inside the car and speak to one another with all the mobile adaptability of Face Time so popular with the Apple devices. The door panels inside the car are simply giant touch screens where the interior could come alive in conversations with people in the other cars of your party, or device gaming to pass the time. The inside of the Mercedes F015 wouldn’t be any different from a living room in a home; all the niceties would be there without the concern or responsibility of driving.

On such a long trip most of my speed comes from wanting to arrive at my destination, I usually try to cruise at or above 80 MPH. If I didn’t have the responsibility to stay up all night to drive so everyone else could sleep, I could avoid that lag period after such a trip where it takes a day to recover. I’ve driven all night to Florida on many occasions and it is always hard. We chose to leave around 10 PM so that we can arrive around 3 PM the next day and still have time to do something once we arrive. But it usually takes a few days to recover from the trip—for everyone. In the Mercedes F015 we could just sleep through a good portion of the trip. One thing that I’ve learned about such trips is that sometimes faster is slower. Even though a self-driving car would irritatingly obey all the traffic laws, it would not be prone to rubber necking along the highway. Most of the traffic issues on a highway are do to curious drivers looking at something in dense patterns starting a chain reaction of brake lights that slows down the entire highway. This is particularly obvious in Atlanta, Georgia. If a large percentage of cars on a highway were self-driving rubber necking would be a thing of the past actually speeding up the overall average speed of travel. If I drive really fast to Orlando, Florida I might be able to shave an hour and a half off the 15 hour trip. That is a lot of time but I would gladly trade it if I could do other useful things while in transit. I could read a book or play a video game instead of driving.

Even better would be a commute to work each day. I would gladly trade driving to a job with the ability to read and watch the news while easing into my day without the responsibility of navigation. It would actually increase the productive use of a day to gain that time allowing a person of responsibly to begin their work day the moment they left their driveway. It would be possible then to leave later for work and come home earlier since irritating aspects of a business day are often reading and answering emails. In the Mercedes F015 much of that work could be done during the commute which would save tremendous amounts of time per day in which personal time could be gained without the expense of lost productivity.

Driving is wonderful, I’ll probably always do a little of it, but I would gladly welcome the ability to extend my living space to a mobile transport which allowed me to do other things that are more valuable to me. Driving and reacting to other drivers is a puzzle that might be challenging, but it does bring a level of stress to our lives that we typically just ignore because of the lack of options. A Mercedes F015 would change all that—and I’d welcome it.

More than anything driverless cars with the sleek appearance of the new Mercedes are what we expect for 2015. Our world should be transforming into the products of our inventions instead of new renditions of the latest 1970s car company when the Big Three in America dominated the global market. The new Chrysler mini vans look like a shoe box and the various models of sport vehicles just don’t go far enough into the kind of transports a future driven by exciting new technology should deliver. The Mercedes F015 is much more along the lines of what I thought this particular point in history should have always looked than the stuffy safety of inside the box thinking that we have been seeing out of car companies over the last two decades.

Of course the next step for the automated car is to take to the air. Once society accepts that cars can drive themselves, perhaps then they’ll accept the same technology in the sky instead of trying up roads on the ground. Roads will always have some importance for point to point delivery of products and services. But, the air is where it’s at as far as transporting ourselves from one place to another. It would be extremely useful to me to be able to fly to Chicago or Cleveland from my driveway and arrive at a parking garage within the city in 45 minutes to an hour eating my breakfast along the way and conducting preliminary business in route.

Such technology is already present; the only restriction is our own human insecurities. There is no reason to hang on to the old when the new has so much to offer. There are better things for a mind to spend its time on than looking at some car in front of you packed in traffic. Let a computer waste its time on that activity—because our brains need to be free to pursue other interests. The Mercedes-Benz F015 is exciting, but to my mind it’s a decade too late. Its time to see the future we should have had all along, and for transportation, the new Mercedes is the benchmark of all things to come. And I welcome it.

Rich Hoffman

 CLIFFHANGER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

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