When it comes to imagining what the future might look like, people often start with cars. The flying cars of endless science fiction films might not be a reality yet, but automobile manufacturers' fascination with futuristic design seems as strong as ever. And if that future looks anything like Mercedes Benz's latest concept, we're not sure we're quite ready for it.
Created in partnership with the team behind the AVATAR series, the VISION AVTR (because vowels are so last year) was revealed at this year's CES 2020 conference. Inspired by the universe of the fantasy franchise, the concept features a number of truly unusual design decisions. If you fancy making a futuristic concept of your own, check out our best 3D modelling software.
We'll get to the rest of the design shortly, but first we need to discuss the scales. Yes, the car's rear end has scales. Does a car need scales? We get that it's based on Pandora, AVATAR's fictional world of reptilian creatures (sorry, 'Naʼvi'), but still – scales.
Mercedes-Benz calls them (opens in new tab) “bionic flaps”, which can be used to communicate with people outside the car. As if the flaps weren't creature-like enough, the company describes their movement as "crab-like". That's it – we're officially scared of a car.
As for the rest of the design, Mercedes-Benz says the VISION AVTR "combines interior, exterior and UX design on an unprecedented scale." The spherical (!) wheels allow the car to move sideways or diagonally, while the steering wheel is replaced by a "multifunction control element" (below). Not dystopian enough? Well, the car can also recognise the driver by their heartbeat and breathing.
Much like last year's love-it-or-hate-it Tesla Cybertruck, the design appears to have split the internet down the middle. "Beautiful, flawless design," one YouTuber (opens in new tab) comments, while another simply adds, "this is gross". "Yeah the designers were definitely high and watching some sci-fi movie when creating this," another comments, which could well be true – Mercedes-Benz has already admitted the sci-fi movie part.
While we applaud Mercedes-Benz's imagination, the alien-like design leaves us feeling a little squeamish. Of course, being a concept design, the VISION AVTR may never end up hitting the road. For some slightly less dystopian vehicular design news, take a look at Maserati's brand new logo. (It doesn't have scales.)