Take a gander at some of the concept vehicles shown at high-profile U.S. and international auto shows and it’s clear that there are some very futuristic designs out there. Many have certain elements of self-driving cars, while others are clearly designed to be fully autonomous from the start. Now, look at the vehicle you drive most often, the one parked in your driveway or garage. How soon will that familiar car stand-by, the side mirror, be a thing of the past?
It could happen sooner than you think. To gain some perspective on this issue, consider some of the recently introduced concept vehicles from the 2015 and 2016 auto shows.
Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion – Unveiled at the 2016 CES in Las Vegas, the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion concept is a no-holds-barred look at a fully autonomous vehicle of the future. For now, it’s merely a dream car, a design exercise that shows vision, creativity and quite a bit of fun. And there’s not a side mirror in sight.
The car’s body and structure makes use of high-strength steel, aluminum, and composite material – including carbon fiber. Stereo cameras and radar sensors allow the car to constantly monitor its surroundings and drive without the need for a human at the wheel. Of course, a human driver can take over at any time. All these cameras and sensors provide a 360-degree view of the outside. Again, nary a side mirror in sight. How’s that for futuristic? Might take some getting used to, however.
Nissan IDS Concept – Originally appearing at the 2015 Tokyo Auto Show, the Nissan IDS Concept made its U.S. debut at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The IDS Concept is Nissan’s vision of autonomous driving and zero emission EVs. As clearly shown in the photo, the IDS Concept has no side mirrors. The company says that the IDS Concept integrates advanced vehicle control and safety technologies with cutting-edge artificial intelligence. Furthermore, the company says Intelligent Driving improves what the driver can see, think and react to. Nissan says it will have autonomous drive technology on multiple vehicles by 2020.
Interestingly, the IDS Concept has two interiors, depending on the driver’s choice: Piloted Drive or Manual Drive. Whichever the driver selects, Nissan says it’s all about more choices and greater control for the driver.
BMW Vision Next 100 – German automaker BMW celebrated the company’s 100th anniversary with a Munich reveal of the Vision Next 100. According to BMW, the car is a peek into the future of what driving could be like. The Vision Next 100 has two modes: one offering the driver peak performance, and the other where the car drives itself. As for specifics of the boxy, gullwing car, there weren’t any: no information on what powertrain it might contain, how much it would cost, or when it might be available. Company officials did venture an opinion that it would likely be 20-30 years in the future, not 100 years.
Note there are no side mirrors. The car’s entire windshield becomes a heads-up display, mapping the best route, potential obstacles and road conditions. With the Vision Next 100, the car is meant to be the best of both worlds, an “intelligent co-pilot,” “companion,” and “ultimate driver.” In other words, both car and driver are as smart as they can be. Too bad consumers might have to wait three decades to be able to buy one.
Acura Precision Concept – There’d be no identity crisis at Acura if the Precision Concept shown at the 2016 North American Auto Show sees the light of day. Sharply creased exterior features – and no side mirrors – reveal a whole new look for Acura. Sadly, no plans exist for bringing the Precision Concept into production. With its 122-inch wheelbase (longer than anything in the current Acura lineup), massive 22-inch wheels, pronounced wheel arches, no B pillars and stunning integrated rear taillights, let’s hope that some of these exciting innovations make their way into a future product from Acura.
Audi h-tron Concept – Featuring fuel-cell technology and a 373-mile range, the Audi h-tron Concept made its debut at the 2016 North American International Auto Show. The h-tron Quattro concept is an attempt to showcase the potential of fuel cell technology at the same time as it highlights autonomous driving and parking. While the h-tron looks virtually identical to the Audi e-tron, this concept features hydrogen, as opposed to all-electric power. And, see, no side mirrors at all. Information on Audi’s website says that the h-tron’s “sophisticated design measures include cameras that replace exterior mirrors.”
Audi has already confirmed that the e-tron will be in production in 2018, while the h-tron is purely a design study at this point. Industry watchers, however, expect the h-tron concept to preview an upcoming version of one of Audi’s crossovers, likely a Q6, which will slot between the Q7 and Q5.
Porsche Mission E Concept – Porsche enthusiasts who swooned over the Mission E Concept should be pleased now that the company has confirmed it will make a production version. There are still a few hurdles to overcome in order to comply with safety regulations around the world, so the production version won’t be strictly identical to the Mission E Concept. But the production version still will boast an 800-volt system with two electric motors, allowing the performance electric sedan to achieve 0-60 mph from a dead stop in about 3.5 seconds.
The exterior design of the Mission E Concept is clean (with no side mirrors), true to the brand’s vision and may help parent company Volkswagen in its attempt to recover from the negatives surrounding the diesel emissions scandal that erupted in late 2015.