Car and no driver

A closer look at Mercedes-Benz’s $12 million self-driving car

Yesterday in Alameda, California, Mercedes-Benz showed off its almost autonomous automobile, the F 015. (The thing is actually pre-programmed; its brains aren’t yet good enough to drive unsupervised.) The self-driving Benz has been spotted on the streets of San Francisco, and was given an on-stage spotlight at CES, but this was its official hands-on debut for the Bay Area press.

The F 015’s prototype is a sleek graphite bullet full of sensors and cameras, gadgets and lasers. It cost about $12 million to build, according to Holger Hutzenlaub, one of the car’s designers. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about buying one until 2030—when Mercedes-Benz expects that something like the F 015 will be available to the public.

As the car taxied around Alameda Point on its own, the company rolled out the red carpet and served hors d’oeuvres to a bunch of tech journalists. We got a chance to open the saloon-style doors, sit in the swivel seats, and ride in the car with the computerized chauffeur. It felt like riding a slightly claustrophobic monorail pimped out with your own private IMAX inside. The ride felt mostly smooth, but it’s not for those with a feeble stomach. You can sit facing the back, and that made Fusion’s Daniela Hernandez nauseous.

Bottles of sparkling water were popped, avocado and Dungeness crab salads were served, and at least one cigar was smoked. When we weren’t eyeing the snacks, we took some snapshots of the car. Check them out in the gallery above.

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