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.