Automobiles

Mercedes' Vision Tokyo is an autonomous fuel-cell future van

Mercedes-Benz's latest self-driving Vision concept looks like a road-going dirigible, and it's coming for Japan's youth.

Chris Paukert/CNET
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The Vision Tokyo concept features an airplane-like windshield.

Chris Paukert/CNET

TOKYO -- Mercedes-Benz has been working on a series of autonomous concept cars called "Vision" for a few years, and its latest show car, the Vision Tokyo, has been explicitly designed to court motorists in megacities.

In this case, the German automaker has revealed a dirigible-like monoform show car at the Tokyo Motor Show, one designed to appeal to the youth of Japan's capital city. While it's a very space-efficient form with a lounge-like atmosphere inside, the sheer size of this vehicle seems somehow out of step with the densely packed environment for which it was built. Those 26-inch wheels also suggest a massive turning circle, which seems suboptimal for urban travel.

Mercedes-Benz is the latest automaker to try to tailor a connected-vehicle concept to Japan's increasingly car-averse youth, a growing problem for automakers hoping to sell their wares in this market. Also at this week's Tokyo Motor Show, domestic automaker Nissan is showing its Teatro For Dayz, a social-media-minded electric vehicle targeting a similar audience.

Interestingly, this futurethink Mercedes-Benz show car eschews traditional front and back seats in favor of an oval-shaped couch, ostensibly because there's no need to prioritize a driver's area in a future where cars guide themselves and rarely crash.

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Like the city that inspired it, the Vision Tokyo lights up in spectacular fashion at night.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes does include a provision for traditional piloted driving, in this case a jump seat that emerges from the couch and a steering wheel that moves into place.

The company claims the Vision Tokyo employs both a fuel cell and an onboard induction-charged battery to yield a total operating range of over 600 miles, approximately 120 of which are accomplished on the battery pack alone.