Mercedes made a concept car for Avatar and we drove it.

Enlarge / Many concepts are static models, but Mercedes-Benz has created a working model. Anyway, at low speed.


When you think about the future of transportation, you probably don’t think of water dragons like in director James Cameron’s latest Avatar movie. Avatar: The Way of WaterIt will be released on December 16. You can think of more, like the Mercedes-AVTR that Mercedes launched just before the pandemic at CES in 2020.

Collaboration between the producers and directors of the latest Avatar movie and the auto company might seem unlikely – after all, the movie has no cars and no Vision AVTR on screen. Still, after spending an afternoon using the out-of-this-world concept and seeing the behind the scenes of the new movie, this makes a lot of sense.

“The avatar as a movie IP in everything we do has something that many movies don’t have, it’s a moral code,” said Jon Landau, COO of Lightstorm Entertainment and Oscar-winning producer. avatarIt was said via video conference at an event we attended in Manhattan Beach, California.

“We believe these movies are about something. They forced us to look at our world a little differently, to understand that our actions have an impact on the people and the world around us, and we were looking for partners who shared the same kind of morality. “I think Mercedes really has a vision for a sustainable future,” Landau told Ars.

The interior of the AVTR has appeared on recent production Mercedes EVs such as the EQS and EQE.
Enlarge / The interior of the AVTR has appeared on recent production Mercedes EVs such as the EQS and EQE.


Sustainable luxury has been Mercedes’ buzzword for some time, since the launch of the Mercedes-Benz EQS in 2021. parallel. It seems that the joint project between Cameron’s Avatar film series and Mercedes has provided a wealth of inspiration and future design direction for the German luxury brand, alongside some being implemented in real-life vehicles.

New design of human-car interface

As a result of COVID, its launch avatar The sequel was delayed, which meant Mercedes had some time to think about the rolling concept. The company has created a full-scale model, a cockpit bucket, to demonstrate some of the features of the future, integrating everything from gesture control to the use of machine vision to spread the human in the cockpit to the outside world.

AVTR cockpit bucket.
Enlarge / AVTR cockpit bucket.

Abigail Bassett

if you know anything about avatarYou know that the Na’vi people of Pandora were connected through their braids to the dragons they rode, called the Banshee. Similarly, the human in the AVTR concept connects with their heartbeat using biometrics. While the coin we sit down to learn about the AVTR’s joystick-like steering (more on that below) doesn’t have the necessary sensors for biometric feedback, engineers have designed it to use machine vision to simulate a heartbeat and see the human. on the sofa

As he walks towards the car, he “wakes up” and almost breathes with you. The flickering lights seem to breathe or beat with your heart rate, just like your Apple Watch does when asleep. It gives the machine a realistic effect and, as Mercedes spokespersons say, makes it feel more like a living, breathing thing than a vehicle. The fins at the rear of the vehicle, which are used both as a modular fluid wing to communicate with the outside (stop, go, turn, acceleration, etc.) and to reduce wind resistance, flutter and move.

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


Each of these scales and their movements were designed in collaboration with a university specializing in carbon fiber and organic robots in Lausanne, Switzerland. Apparently when Mercedes engineers started working on tiny actuators that move the scales, motion was too robotic for designers, so they brought in college. Seeing the scale vibrate and move gives the AVTR a completely organic feel, almost as if you are approaching an animal rather than a machine.

Once you get in and put your hand on the car’s only control-like interface in the center console, the car starts. The controls look like a breathing pile of rocks, and Mercedes calls it Merge Control. It acts as a joystick for the car (no steering wheel) and builds on existing adaptive technology that allows people with disabilities to drive in the real world.

The full-width display is reminiscent of what Mercedes used in the EQXX concept, except it's more earthy.
Enlarge / The full-width display is reminiscent of what Mercedes used in the EQXX concept, except it’s more earthy.


When the vehicle is started and ready to drive, the screen that stretches like a fabric in the front and middle of the vehicle illuminates. As this is a concept created in close collaboration with the makers of the Avatar movies, the scenes on that screen are by Pandora, and driving the AVTR by the way is like flying through a video game. An immersive and complete experience with sounds targeting both sides of the vehicle to help passengers better connect with the outside world.

Of course, no concept vehicle would be complete without the addition of gesture control, because there are no buttons anywhere. Raise your inner hand and an image is projected onto your palm. Move your palm left or right and you can see other available icons. To select an option, you close your hand in a fist, as if grabbing the icon. By the way, I changed the landscape we were flying by simply opening and closing my hand. While this may seem like simple projection technology, Mercedes says it uses machine vision to map thousands of different hand colors, shapes, orientations and sizes to keep the feature working consistently.

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