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Daimler's Autonomous Concept Picks You Up

by Justin Tejada
For some, hearing the phrase, "Individualized, highly flexible, totally efficient local public transport" sounds like an oxymoron.

It certainly is not a way many would describe the current state of public transportation. Buses, subways and other forms of public transit are pretty much the exact opposite of "individualized," as crowded cars are a twice daily reality for commuters worldwide. And the only way most of them can be characterized as "flexible" is if you consider the regularity with which they deviate from their set schedules.

But that bold description -- word for word -- is exactly how Daimler described its latest prototype vehicle that could transform how people use and think about public transportation. The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo essentially checks off every single box of the automobile of the future.

"The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo is also a car in which all of the individual fields of expertise that make up the CASE corporate strategy are combined, allowing users in the city intuitive access to individual mobility," according to the company's statement. "CASE stands for the strategic pillars of connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared & Services) and electric drive systems (Electric)."

Perhaps the most interesting of those four concepts is the third -- flexible use.

With each passing year, ride-sharing services -- and the fleet management they necessitate -- grow and become a more important factor in discussions about the future of transportation. As populations grow, cities become more densely populated and concerns about the environment become more severe, ride-sharing services become an ever more appealing solution.

"The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo is our vision of future urban mobility; it is the most radical car sharing concept car of all: fully autonomous, with maximum communication capabilities, friendly, comprehensively personalisable and, of course, electric," Annette Winkler, vice president of Daimler AG and CEO of Daimler division Smart Automobile, noted in the statement. "With the Smart Vision EQ Fortwo, we are giving a face to the themes with which Mercedes-Benz Cars describes the vision of future mobility within the CASE strategy."

Connected car enthusiasts -- and autonomous vehicle enthusiasts, and ride-share enthusiasts, and electric vehicle enthusiasts -- are getting their first look at the Fortwo design this month at the Frankfurt International Motor Show.

With the vehicle aiming for Level 5 autonomy, though, it will be some time before it (or, more likely, its design descendants) takes to the streets.

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