Mercedes constructed an idea automobile for Avatar, and we drove it

The Mercedes AVTR concept seen through the leaves of a plant
Enlarge / Many ideas are static fashions, however Mercedes-Benz constructed one which works. At low velocity, anyway.


While you consider the way forward for transportation, you most likely don’t consider water dragons like these in director James Cameron’s latest Avatar film, Avatar: The Method of Water, which shall be launched on December 16. You would possibly consider one thing extra alongside the traces of the Mercedes-AVTR, which Mercedes debuted simply earlier than the pandemic at CES in 2020.

The collaboration between the producers and administrators of the most recent Avatar film and the auto firm might seem to be an unlikely one—in any case, there aren’t any vehicles within the film, and the Imaginative and prescient AVTR doesn’t seem on-screen. But, after spending a day driving this out-of-this-world idea and getting a behind-the-scenes take a look at the brand new film, it makes fairly good sense.

“Avatar as a film as an IP throughout all of the issues we do, has one thing that lots of films haven’t got, which is an ethos,” Jon Landau, COO of Lightstorm Leisure and Academy Award-winning producer of Avatar, stated by way of video convention on the occasion we attended in Manhattan Seaside, California.

“We imagine these films are about one thing. That they problem us to have a look at our world just a little bit in another way, to know that our actions have an effect on folks round us and the world round us, and we have been on the lookout for companions who share in that very same kind of ethos. And I feel Mercedes actually has a imaginative and prescient for a sustainable future,” Landau informed Ars.

The AVTR's interior design has shown up in recent production Mercedes EVs like the EQS and EQE.
Enlarge / The AVTR’s inside design has proven up in latest manufacturing Mercedes EVs just like the EQS and EQE.


Sustainable luxurious has been the Mercedes buzzword for a while now—ever for the reason that launch of the Mercedes-Benz EQS in 2021. It is simple to see the through-line between the AVTR and Mercedes EQ line, since designers and engineers have been engaged on each in parallel. Because it seems, the joint challenge between Cameron’s Avatar film franchise and Mercedes has yielded a wealth of inspiration and future design course for the German luxurious model, in addition to some issues which are already being carried out in real-life automobiles.

A brand new design of the human-car interface

On account of COVID, the launch of the Avatar sequel was pushed again, which meant that Mercedes had a while to contemplate the rolling idea. The corporate created a cockpit buck—a full-scale mannequin—to point out off a number of the options of the longer term that combine the whole lot from gesture management to the utilization of machine imaginative and prescient to increase the human within the cockpit to the world outdoors.

The AVTR cockpit buck.
Enlarge / The AVTR cockpit buck.

Abigail Bassett

If you understand something about Avatar, you understand that the Na’vi folks on Pandora join, by way of their braids, to the dragons referred to as Banshee that they trip. Equally, the human within the AVTR idea connects by way of their heartbeat, utilizing biometrics. Whereas the buck we sat in to study concerning the joystick-like steering of the AVTR (extra on that under) didn’t have the sensors mandatory for biometric suggestions, engineers had designed it to simulate a heartbeat and use machine imaginative and prescient to see the human within the seat.

As you stroll as much as the automobile, it “wakes up” and appears to nearly breathe with you. The pulsating lights appear to breathe or beat along with your coronary heart charge, very like your Apple Watch does when it is sleeping. It provides the machine a lifelike impact and, as Mercedes spokespeople say, makes it really feel extra like a dwelling, respiration factor than a car. The fins on the rear of the car—that are used each for outward communication (cease, go, flip, speed up, and so on.) and as a modular fluid wing for wind resistance discount—flutter and transfer.

The scales can be backlit.
Enlarge / The scales will be backlit.


Every of these scales and their motion have been designed in collaboration with a college in Lausanne, Switzerland, that focuses on carbon fiber and natural robots. Apparently, when Mercedes engineers began engaged on the tiny actuators that transfer the scales, the motion was too robotic for designers, in order that they introduced within the college. Seeing the scales flutter and transfer provides the AVTR a very natural really feel, nearly like you might be approaching an animal and never a machine.

When you climb in and place your hand on the one control-like interface within the car on the middle console, the automobile begins. The controls appear like a stack of respiration stones, and Mercedes calls it Merge Management. It acts because the joystick (there isn’t a steering wheel) for the automobile, and it is primarily based on present adaptive know-how that enables folks with disabilities to drive vehicles in the true world.

The full-width screen is reminiscent of the one Mercedes used in the EQXX concept, except more otherworldly.
Enlarge / The complete-width display screen is harking back to the one Mercedes used within the EQXX idea, besides extra otherworldly.


When the automobile is on and able to drive, the display screen that stretches like cloth throughout the entrance and center of the car lights up. Since this can be a idea created in shut partnership with the producers of the Avatar movies, the scenes on that display screen are these of Pandora, and, within the buck, driving the AVTR is like flying by a online game. The expertise is immersive and full with audio that’s focused for either side of the car to assist higher join the occupants with the world outdoors.

In fact, no idea car could be full with out the addition of gesture management, as a result of there aren’t any buttons anyplace. Increase your inboard hand, and a picture is projected in your palm. Transfer your palm left or proper, and you may see the opposite accessible icons. To decide on an choice, you shut your hand right into a fist such as you’re grabbing the icon. Within the buck, I modified the surroundings we have been flying by simply by opening and shutting my hand. Whereas this will seem to be easy projection know-how, Mercedes says that it used machine imaginative and prescient to map 1000’s of various hand colours, shapes, orientations, and sizes to make sure that the characteristic would work constantly.