World premiere of the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion at the CES, Las Vegas 2015Weltpremiere des Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion auf der CES, Las Vegas 2015

This sci-fi oddity is the extravagantly-named Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion concept, unveiled at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. It’s Stuttgart’s attempt of revolutionising the automobile as an autonomous “private retreating space,” part of its Vision 2030+.

Measuring 5,220 mm long, 2,018 mm wide and 1,524 mm tall, the car looks utterly bizzare, with a huge front grille decked out with LED lights, a streamlined, unadorned rotund body, a large rear LED array, massive 26-inch wheels and barely any overhang at all. A unique QR code replaces the traditional number plate.

The multitude of exterior lights enable the car to communicate with other vehicles and pedestrians – the rear display, for example, displays “SLOW” under regular braking and flashes “STOP” in an emergency stop. Added to that, a laser projector is incorporated into the large three-pointed star in front, projecting useful imagery onto the road ahead such as a virtual zebra crossing for pedestrians. The car can also interact with other road users via audible signals.

Mercedes-Benz F015 - Luxury in Motion

With a wheelbase measuring 3,610 mm long (some 245 mm longer than a Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, itself no cramped city car), the F 015 promises a truly cavernous interior. The suicide doors open 90 degrees, with no B-pillar obstructing access to the cabin.

Stepping inside reveals what Mercedes calls a “lounge-like space,” with open pore walnut wood, metal, glass and Plexiglass surfaces. The focal point of the interior are the four rotating seats, upholstered in white nappa leather, that allow passengers to face each other when the car is in autonomous mode. To ease entry and egress, the seats can pivot outwards by 30 degrees when the doors are opened. Six large screens dot the cabin, operable by touch, gestures and eye movement.

Providing motive force is Mercedes’ F-Cell Plug-In Hybrid system, an electric drivetrain powered by either hydrogen (stored in pressurised carbon fibre tanks) or a battery. A pair of 136 hp/200 Nm electric motors send a grand total of 272 hp to the rear wheels, propelling the F 015 from 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 200 km/h.

Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion

Fuel consumption is listed at just 0.6 kg of hydrogen per 100 km on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), the equivalent of two litres of diesel. All in all, the F 015 has a total range of 1,100 km, including 200 km on battery power alone.

Under the skin, the F 015 features a Smart Body Structure (SBS) combining carbon fibre, aluminium and high-strength steels, resulting in a bodyshell that is 40% lighter than a regular production body of today. It’s safe, too – a mechanical locking system fixes the doors firmly to the roof and side sills to compensate for the lack of B-pillar, while the Pre-Safe Structure in the doors inflate in a side impact to maximise protection.

Mercedes-Benz previously showcased autonomous driving in 2013, with the S 500 Intelligent Drive retracing the circa-100 km Mannheim-Pforzheim route taken by Karl Benz’s wife Bertha on the first long-distance automobile journey over 125 years ago.