Auto Makers Take Slight Detour on Future

By Fink Densford
BU News Service

According to both Toyota and Mercedes Benz, the future of the automotive industry is destined to shift dramatically in the coming years. How it will be changing, however, was not a point the two automakers could agree on.

At a press conference Monday, Toyota brought its Mirai – the soon-to-be first commercially available hydrogen fuel cell car to discuss the future of not the auto, but it’s fuel. And to help pave the way for this, Toyota will be offering over 5,680 patents related to hydrogen fuel cell development.

The car itself isn’t new – Toyota presented a concept Mirai at CES 2014, and it is slated to be available for purchase in California later this year.

Hydrogen, said Bob Carter – a Toyota US senior vice president, will be the inevitable source of energy for the cars of the next 100 years. He reiterated Toyota’s hope that opening up the patents would accelerate adoption of the new technology among other automakers and improve the development of an infrastructure to support the new fuel.

Many similarities between Toyota’s incredibly successful Prius line and the new Mirai were made. The Prius overcame years of doubts about whether the public was ready for a commercial hybrid after its worldwide debut in 2000, and Toyota seems hopeful that the Mirai will follow suit.

For Mercedes Benz, the future lies, much like their present, in luxury. Presenting an entirely new concept for CES, the F 015 Luxury in Motion, Mercedes Benz focused on how autonomous driving systems will affect not only how we drive, but how cars are designed and conceived.

The F 015 drove onto the stage at Mercedes Benz conference to make the point, and featured a distinctly futuristic design. Arrays of lights on the front and back of the vehicle were used to communicate with individuals and pedestrians outside the car, even verbally acknowledging when it was safe to move past it.

The interior design beckoned back to the days of the carriage, said Mercedes, with a focus on the passenger, and not the driver. The four seats in the car swiveled to face each other, and each door in the F 015 was equipped with multiple interactive gesture displays that could be customized for each individual passenger.

Hydrogen was at the base of the car’s power system, a fact sure to bring a smile to Toyota, but the focus was more on the design and concept built around the idea of a driverless car.

Mercedes claimed that as autonomous driving systems become the norm, driving will be considered a relaxing get away instead of an attended to activity, which would shift both the design and concepts at the base of all autos in the coming years.

Autonomous cars seem to be taking center stage at CES 2015, with Audi sending an autonomous version of its A7 from San Francisco to Las Vegas. Both BMW and Hyundai are planning shows of their own autonomous vehicles as well.

Photo galleries of the events below.

Toyota

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Mercedes Benz

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