With his breakthrough film, Avatar, director James Cameron pushed the limits of science fiction. Now Mercedes-Benz has lifted some of its themes for the Vision AVTR, a striking new concept vehicle that made its debut at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show.
- With distinctive features, such as its 33 flexible body panels, the AVTR bears more than a passing resemblance to the Banshee flying vehicles used by the cat-like Na’Vi aliens in the film.
- The four-door show car also features bionic-style controls and both augmented and virtual reality technologies.
- AVTR is powered by a twin-motor electric drive system not that far off from what Mercedes plans to use in an assortment of production models it will introduce over the next several years.
Large crowds turned out for the AVTR when Mercedes put it on display. (Photo: Paul A. Eisenstein, TheDetroitBureau.com)
A fantasy in chrome
AVTR’s electric drive system relies on a new, graphene-based battery technology that doesn’t require the exotic – and often toxic – metals found in today’s lithium-ion batteries. Sustainability is, in fact, one of the central themes of the show car which, among other things, replaces conventional leather with a virtually identical recycled material called “Dinamica.” And while there’s still wood inside, the automaker turned to a fast-growing and sustainably harvested Indonesian material called Karuun.
One of the more unusual capabilities would allow the AVTR to “crab” 30 degrees by spinning the two motors in opposite directions. That not a unique idea, however, as Rivian recently showed off a similar capability in its R1T pickup and R1S sport-utility vehicle.
The Vision AVTR features a bionic controller that can read your pulse and breathing as well as operate the concept vehicle’s various functions. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)
Coming soon – not the car, but more movies
Among the most radical ideas in the AVTR is a bionic link between the car and its driver. Place your hand on the glowing central controller and it will read your pulse and breathing while allowing you to operate many of the prototype’s functions. When you lift your hand, the concept vehicle projects a list of different functions onto your palm.
Even the more fantastic elements of the concept car have a purpose. Mercedes noted that the flexible body panels in the rear of the AVTR can reduce wind drag and extend its range, even while generating power to help recharge the graphene battery pack.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The timing of the Mercedes AVTR isn’t entirely coincidental. Plans for sequels to Avatar, one of the highest-grossing films in Hollywood history, have been recently announced, with the first scheduled to debut next December. And even if none of the AVTR’s science fiction ever comes to life in a Mercedes dealership, a concept this fantastic can inspire engineers and car buyers alike.