In a move that’s likely to prompt prolific posting of the ‘WHAT YEAR IS IT?’ meme, Mercedes has built a concept car in collaboration with the team behind a film released in 2009.
As you might have gathered from the Vision AVTR name, Mercedes’ showpiece for the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show riffs off James Cameron’s sci-fi epic Avatar. This doesn’t, so far as we can see, mean that the AVTR has enough headroom to accommodate a fully-grown Na’vi. However, Mercedes does say that the vehicle is “inspired by the world of Pandora”.
Referencing the slightly creepy tail-connecting thing between the Na’vi and various animals in the film, you control to AVTR not using a conventional steering wheel, instead via a “biometric connection”. When hands are placed on a control unit, the interior “comes to life,”
with the car recognising the driver “by his or her heartbeat and breathing”. Mercedes says this “allows human and machine to merge”.
You even sit in something designed to resemble the ‘leaf hammocks’ of Home Tree, which was the Na’vi’s crib. Until [spoiler alert] Giovani Ribisi had it knocked down. Up front, meanwhile, is a centre console which is supposed to look like the Soul Tree. Which [spoiler alert] Giovani Ribisi also had knocked down.
The swooping “one-bow” body includes 33 “bionic flaps” at the rear, like reptile scales. They make “naturally flowing movements in subtle gestures”. Whether or not they can convey your displeasure at the middle-lane hogger you’ve just passed, we’re not sure.
The near-spherical wheels allow for a super-tight turning circle and mean that the AVTR can move diagonally, rather like a crab. This apparently gives the vehicles an “animal-like appearance even in its movement”. Right.
The powertrain is pure science fiction territory, with the AVTR propelled by recycled “organic battery technology”. The (theoretical) 110kWh pack is made up of “graphene-based organic cell chemistry” with not a drop of rare metal used in its construction. Nope, not even Pandora-mined unobtanium. The numbers are a little more down to Earth, though - the AVTR develops 465bhp and has a range of 435 miles.