ONE SUNNY DAY last week, I drove from my office in San Francisco over the Bay Bridge, down Interstate 880 and into a parking lot at the defunct Alameda Naval Air Station. I was late, so I wasn’t exactly driving cautiously. I weaved through traffic going 15 mph over the speed limit, alternating between tailgating and passing cars on the right. Because I didn’t know where I was going and didn’t take the time to plug the address in the car’s nav system, I had my eyes glued to my phone for much of the trip.
I was an example of every reason why humans stink at driving.
Which was fitting, because there on the tarmac was the vehicle that, more than any other I have had heard of or ridden in, leaves me totally psyched for the coming age of autonomous automobiles.
This shiny hunk of metal is the F 015 “Luxury in Motion” concept. It’s Mercedes-Benz’s vision of the future in which streets are shared by all and cars politely insist that pedestrians please go first—and even project a crosswalk onto the pavement in front of them. It is a place where the only acceptable materials are stainless steel, white leather, carbon fiber, and wood. Automotive fatalities are but a memory. Cars are brilliant, both in their intelligence and luster. They look like bars of soap sent back from the next century, even if Mercedes insists they don’t. Inside, humans face each other and chat like civilized beings, or stare at their phones like human beings.
This future sounds lovely, and Mercedes says it arrives in 15 years.