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商业 - 汽车

独家专访:奔驰自动驾驶概念车背后的两位主导者和他们的疯狂创想

Bradley Berman 2015年04月22日

我们的汽车词典里还没有一个专有名词能形容奔驰F 015——用铝合金精雕细琢而成、可媲美太空飞船的豪华座驾。《财富》记者日前试乘了这辆奔驰公司花费四年之力研发的杰作,感觉就像坐上了只有一个车厢的头等舱。接受记者专访时,两位主要研发功臣畅谈了这部轿车的设计理念和过程。

    不要把奔驰F 015称为“汽车”,因为我们的汽车词典里还没有一个专有名词能形容它——用铝合金精雕细琢而成,形似太空飞船的豪华座驾。F 015的“0”是为了避免与F15战斗机相混淆,但仅凭这样一个名字并不足以帮它开辟一个新的汽车类别。

    F 015具有一辆全尺寸轿车的长度,配备四个尺寸颇大的车轮,行驶过程中不需要有人操纵方向盘。它的后备箱里塞满了全速运行的电脑。它唯一发出的声音便是防止处理器过热的风扇声——当然,当电脑觉得必要的时候,它也会用像Siri一样的声音,向路上的行人发出警示,并用头灯和尾灯发出一系列奔驰自行发明的动态灯光信号。

    我最近在这台相当有美感的“未来座驾”里试乘了20分钟,感觉就像坐上了只有一个车厢的列车的头等舱。F 015就算出现在迪士尼世界里也毫无违和感——但这是奔驰花费四年之力研发的杰作,全世界独此一部。奔驰甚至还给它买了一份高达1200万美元的保险。

    试乘之后,我采访了两位最主要的研发功臣,正是他们将这样一个未来主义的科幻概念,变成了看得见摸得着的自动驾驶汽车平台。亚历山大•曼可夫斯基是戴姆勒集团社会与科技部的一名未来学家,霍尔格•赫特森拉伯则是奔驰在德国一个设计部门的负责人,无人驾驶汽车项目开始后,他就开始在奔驰的东京工作室从事研发工作。

    F 015的灵感迸发于2007年。当时美国国防部的国防高级项目研究局举办了一个名叫“城市挑战赛”的项目,曼可夫斯基作为一名社会学家,亲眼见到了参赛的见习工程师们如何接受挑战,让自动驾驶汽车在城市环境中行驶。

    以下是采访实录:

    亚历山大•曼可夫斯基:在“城市挑战赛”以前,我就在研究移动文化了。不同地区的人有不同的行为方式。他们已经形成了一种文化。比如曼哈顿和旧金山的移动文化就不一样。

    《财富》:你是否考虑过游牧文化?

    亚历山大•曼可夫斯基:是的。游牧文化意味着一切都要随身携带,你就是一座移动的村庄。这是非常有意思的现象,你在纪录片、先锋派电影甚至主流电影中都能看到。

    就像公路片?

    亚历山大•曼可夫斯基:是的。公路片很重要,因为你总会面临一种两难选择,一方面是自由,另一方面你必须乘车前进。公路片往往有一个不好的结局,这就是你为获得自由而付出的代价,就像《末路狂花》和《车队》一样。从某种角度上说,《星际迷航》系列也是公路片,有点像是一个在星际中移动的社会主义社区。

    霍尔格•赫特森拉伯:2011年,我们邀请了东京的大城市规划师和建筑师召开了一次研讨会。我们邀请了亚历山大以及我们自己的自动驾驶工程师。那也是我们首次拥有了一个来自全球各地,供职于公司不同部门的精英组成的智囊团。

    亚历山大•曼可夫斯基:一个明确的目标是,让设计师和规划师利用三天时间,勾勒出他们所在城市未来几十年的发展图景。

    霍尔格•赫特森拉伯:不管他们是来自美国的工作室还是意大利的工作室,他们都必须用二维图像勾划出他们所在的城市,然后想象这些城市在10年或20年以后会变成什么样子。

    亚历山大•曼可夫斯基:这些城市的未来会用到不同的移动工具——你不能说它一定是汽车。有一个概念提到了“环型城市”,即不同的移动工具行驶在不同的路线上,它们行驶的时间也不一样。未来的城市会有电动履带铺成的自动人行道,甚至可能还有移动的花园。另一个例子就是来自东京的F 015的创意。

    Don’t call the Mercedes F 015 a “car.” In fact, our automotive lexicon doesn’t yet have a word for the sculpted-aluminum land-bound spaceship-limousine. The name F 015, pronounced ef-oh-one-five to avoid confusion with the F15 fighter plane, doesn’t help establish a vehicular classification.

    Follow these clues. It’s the length of a full-size sedan. It has four large wheels set to its corners. It moves around without a human being behind the steering wheel. And it packs all traditional cargo spaces with an arsenal of computers running at full tilt. The whir of fans to keep processors from overheating is the only sound of its core operations—although it can communicate, when it sees a need, with pedestrians via a Siri-like voice, through laser-beamed messages on the pavement, and in swirls of animated lights displayed on its large open front and rear grilles using a symbolic language of its own invention.

    I recently had a somewhat bumpy 20-minute ride in the almost-sensuous vehicle-robot. The experience was like being in a first-class single-cabin rail car on virtual tracks. It would not have been out of place at Disneyworld—except that the F 015 is a one-off, the single product of more than four years of Mercedes research. The vehicle is insured at about $12 million.

    After my ride, I sat down with the two men most responsible for bringing the F 015 from futuristic hallucination to a tangible full-scale ride-worthy research platform for the future of autonomous mobility. Alexander Mankowsky is a futurist in Daimler’s society and technology group, and Holger Hutzenlaub, a leader of advanced design group in Germany, was based in Mercedes’s Tokyo studio when the project commenced.

    The first spark of inspiration occurred in 2007, when Mankowsky—trained as a sociologist—witnessed student engineers competing in a challenge to run a self-driving car through a city environment, at the Urban Challenge held by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a program of the U.S. Department of Defense.

    The Interview:

    Alex Mankowsky: Before the Urban Challenge, I was already working on mobility cultures. People behave differently in different regions. They develop a culture. It’s different in Manhattan than in San Francisco, and so on.

    Bradley Berman: Did you think about nomadic cultures?

    AM: Yes, sure. Nomadic cultures mean you have everything with you. You are a moving village. It’s very funny stuff, which you can see in documentary, avant-garde and mainstream movies, including science fiction.

    BB: Like the road movie genre?

    AM: Yeah, road movies are important because you always have a dilemma and conflict with the perception of freedom and moving with the car, and the rules and regulations that define a street, and the police. Road movies are always ending with a bad outcome for freedom, like Thelma and Louise and Convoy. In a way, the Star Trek stories are a road movie too, a kind of mobile Socialist community between the stars.

    Holger Hutzenlaub: In 2011, we organized a workshop with the main city planners and architects of Tokyo. We invited Alex, and our own autonomous driving engineers. It was the first time we had a think-tank situation with people from different parts of the company across the globe.

    AM: The explicit goal was, in three days, to create sketches for different future scenarios and for designers and planners to go home from Tokyo and make future scenarios for their own cities.

    HH: It didn’t matter if it was the U.S. studio or the Italian studio. They had to come up with a vision, a two-dimensional picture of his or her main city, and how it would look in 10 or 20 years ahead.

    AM: These futures used different mobility devices. You can’t say cars. One concept was the “loop city,” with different mobility devices for different routes, in which you can drive different durations. There were moving sidewalks, and even stranger ideas like moving gardens. The F 015 is one example, the one from Tokyo.

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