Who knew the next entry in the Avatar franchise would be a car instead of a film? That’s right, the mastermind behind the modern sci-fi classic, James Cameron, took a break from filming the oft-delayed series of movies to help Mercedes-Benz design its latest concept vehicle, the Vision AVTR at this year’s CES.
While we’ve seen plenty of wild concepts cars over the years, none have been quite as out there as the German automaker’s latest. With a striking techno-organic aesthetic, the brand’s new autonomous vehicle prototype looks back to the 2009 blockbuster to offer a glimpse of the future of automaking.
Like any truly memorable concept vehicle, the first thing you’ll notice about the Vision AVTR—which stands for Advanced Vehicle Transformation, not Avatar—is its daring design. With its curvaceous body, see-through doors and neon accents, the car looks like something ripped from the future, specifically the future portrayed in Cameron’s five-movie series. But the most notable aspect of the car’s exterior may be a set of 33 reptile-like “bionic flaps” on its fastback-ish rear. Mercedes-Benz says says the flaps will supply the car with energy, though it’s unclear exactly how. Notably, the car has illuminated wheels inspired by the “seeds of the Tree of Souls” in the first Avatar film. They also move sideways and diagonally, so the car can basically move like a crab.
Things are just as movie-like inside the Vision AVTR. A humongous windshield and transparent front and rear doors allow passengers to really feel connected (or exposed) to their surroundings. The dashboard lacks any semblance of a steering wheel, but the concept takes advantage of the added space with a dashboard-length screen that blends into the centre console and projects information and images of the environment outside the car. The rest of the interior, including its hammock-like seats, is outfitted in sustainable materials like vegan “leather” and quick-growing rattan.
But it’s the Vision AVTR’s next-level tech that will get sci-fi geeks excited. According to Mercedes-Benz, the automaker’s goal was to create a car that was more living creature than machine, something accomplished in part by its use of biometric controls. While there is no steering wheel, the centre console is equipped with an accordion-like “multifunctional control element” that allows driver and vehicle to merge into a “symbiotic organism”—you know, like how the Na’vi physically connect with their banshees in Avatar. It sees you. Able to sense the driver’s heart and breathing rate, the pulsing control pad would give drivers access to the vehicle’s key features and allow them to control their journey with the slightest movement of their hand. (There’s no evidence, of course, that this kind of functionality actually exists yet, but hey, it’s a CES concept.)
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Other bleeding-edge features include the car’s ability to adapt to its passengers. If it senses a family is onboard, the Vision AVTR’s back seat will offer access to education-oriented gaming and family-friendly augmented reality content for children to enjoy. Parents upfront will also be able to keep an eye on those in the back via the giant dashboard screen. The car is also powered by a 110-kilowatt-hour battery made using graphene-based organic cell chemistry that doesn’t require the use of any heavy metals or conflict minerals.
Mercedes-Benz is very open about the fact that the Vision AVTR is a concept and nothing more. But the automaker also made clear that it feels this is where automaking is headed. Perhaps it’s just a matter of time before humans, nature and supercars become one.