Vehicular homicide

I am obsessed by the ugliness of the self-driving concept car that Mercedes showed off at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week:


Its design seems to have been inspired by the head of the monster from the movie Alien. The car’s official name is the F015 Luxury in Motion. But I have nicknamed it The Silver Turd.

The ugliness is more than skin deep. The tiny, mirrored windows reflect the carmaker’s vision of the car as a sybaritic isolation chamber, a stately pleasure-dome that shields its occupants from the outside world. “The single most important luxury goods of the 21st century are private space and time,” said Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche in unveiling The Silver Turd. “Autonomously driving cars by Mercedes-Benz shall offer exactly that — with the F015 Luxury in Motion, this revolutionary concept of mobility becomes tangible for the first time.” In its post-revolutionary form, mobility becomes indistinguishable from stasis.

The womblike interior borrows the “glass cockpit” design of the modern commercial airliner. The cabin is wrapped in computer monitors, and it’s these screens, not the windows, that provide the primary “interface” for the occupants.


“A central idea of ​​the concept,” explains a reporter from Motor Authority, “is a continuous exchange of information between vehicles, passengers and the outside world. For interaction within the vehicle, the passengers rely on six display screens located around the cabin. They also interact with the vehicle through gestures, eye-tracking or by touching the high-resolution screens. Outside, the F015 uses laser projection, radio signals and LED displays to communicate with its surroundings.” Responsibility for perceiving and acting in the world is transferred to the computers, freeing the passengers to enjoy a fully simulated experience.

I’m reminded of the Thom Gunn poem “On the Move,” these two lines in particular:

Much that is natural, to the will must yield.
Men manufacture both machine and soul.
“When the car reaches its destination,” the reporter tells us, “the seats then rotate towards the door for an easy exit for passengers.”

10 thoughts on “Vehicular homicide

  1. diane

    Am both frightened and curious to know what symbolism the headlights take.

    I’ve long been sick of the headlights of the newer, far more expensive, cars of the mid 2000’s and on, which seem to deliberately suggest a pure carnivore is stalking as I glance in that rear view in the dead of night at those illuminated hungry eyes which appear to be deliberately way too close to my unprotected rear end.

  2. diane

    Perhaps the headlights illuminate in the darkness as the bared fangs of the teeny handful of those who’ve made sure that they are the only ones who can afford such ‘escape vehicles’ (while also being the predominant ones to have made such vehicles ‘necessary.’

  3. Paul Yarbles

    The picture you’ve chosen shows an outside world from which I’d like to be shielded. Exactly where is this car supposed to be? Mars?

  4. Nick Post author

    I’m pretty sure it’s a post-apocalyptic landscape. The big question is, what the hell is pictured on those screens? The Louvre? An Apple store? A new Eden?

  5. yvesT

    The audi commercial is hyper cold as well.
    Impressive how the heat/energy flow provided by fossil fuels for 1 and a half century allows to build ever more “crystalline” technology.
    But this explosion of cheap energy is now on its tail end.

  6. Stefan Pantea

    To my mind in this article we are missing something: the nature of F015 car’s passengers. It looks to me that robots of future may enjoy ‘themselves’ in F015. Only the time can lift up the veil of this mystery.

  7. Van Stranden

    We’ve been told before that self-driving cars will allow us to spend more time on Things That Really Matter. I have a feeling that “… a continuous exchange of information between vehicles, passengers and the outside world…” means we will be doing exactly the same thing in a car as we’re doing now, only with the driver also glued to a screen.

    And as for the “private space and time”, I’m pretty sure a car that’s watching your every move (for clues about how to move your chair for instance) and connected to the internet will not be a private space.

  8. Henry Beer

    One can take a somewhat different view, particularly related to the interior. The interior could be looked upon as a sort of isolation chamber and an argument could certainly be put forward in that regard.
    However I prefer to think of it more as a serene place for contemplation, reflection and conjecture. I have suggested to MB Marketing that it be referred to as “The Suppository” which is what such a room was referred to in English manor houses…I think.

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