Need a ride? Smart’s autonomous Vision EQ Fortwo concept will pick you up

The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo concept looks like every car enthusiast’s nightmare. Debuting later this month at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, it’s a dinky electric city car built for autonomous driving and ridesharing, not for carving corners or lighting up the quarter mile. But Smart believes this evolution of its traditional small-car formula could be the future.

Smart says the design “embodies the urban luxury of the future.” The overall shape is similar to a current Smart Fortwo, but with some high-tech touches. The Vision EQ Fortwo concept uses a display in its grille to communicate messages and its doors open parallel with the bodywork, so cyclists and pedestrians won’t accidentally run into them.

The “EQ” in the car’s name signifies Smart sibling Mercedes-Benz’s new brand name for electrified vehicles. The all-electric Vision EQ Fortwo is powered by a 30-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Smart wouldn’t quote performance or range figures, instead focusing on how electric power intertwines with the car’s autonomous-driving capability, and potential use in ridesharing.

Smart already deploys its Fortwo in the Car2Go car-sharing service, but it believes autonomous driving will be a game changer. Instead of customers looking for a car on the street, the car will find them. When the car needs to be charged, it can autonomously drive to a charging station. Autonomous electric cars could even be used as a “swarm battery,” feeding electricity back into the grid during periods of high demand, Smart claims. This concept, known as “vehicle-to-grid” or “V2G,” has already attracted interest from the likes of Nissan, the University of Delaware, and the U.S. Air Force.

Since the car will be doing the driving, there will be no need for manual controls, Smart reasons. Doing away with the steering wheel and pedals also frees up more room in the two-seat interior. Instead of a traditional dashboard, the Vision EQ Fortwo concept features one big 24-inch display screen. The car can mine rideshare users’ social media profiles to suggest possible passenger pairings. Did Smart design this thing for ridesharing, or online dating?

The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo concept won’t go into production, but many of its ideas and features could show up on future Smart or Mercedes models. Parent company Daimler plans to launch more than 10 all-electric models by 2022 across both brands.