The move could result in even fewer consumers buying Smart cars. Instead, Daimler imagines Smart helping people get around in self-driving cars that would be shared rather than privately owned.
A concept car called the Smart Vision EQ ForTwo, unveiled in September at the Frankfurt auto show, achieves Level 5 autonomy, with no steering wheel or pedals. Consumers can use a smartphone to hail the car, which has an electronic panel in place of the grille on which it displays information about where it's going and who it's picking up.
"It is the most radical car-sharing concept car of all," Smart CEO Annette Winkler said in unveiling the car. "Fully autonomous, with maximum communication capabilities, friendly, comprehensively personalizable and, of course, electric."
Of course, because electrification is the foundation of Daimler's plans to protect against obsolescence.
It's pouring $11 billion into EV development and expects as much as a quarter of its global sales to be EVs by 2025 — when it projects that the cost of a conventional powertrain will surpass that of a battery-powered system. The company says its modular EV architecture can be scaled in a variety of ways to produce SUVs, sedans, coupes, convertibles and other styles.
From 2019 through 2022, Daimler plans to launch 10 EVs under a new Mercedes-Benz subbrand it's calling EQ (a variation of IQ meant to represent "electric intelligence").