Beyond the technical and legal issues surrounding autonomous cars, there's another, much more mundane one: Once you don't have to drive, what are you going to do with your free time? Automakers are clearly aware that interiors will need to change to be more lounge-like, which will make things more comfortable for passengers, but you'll probably still be relegated to just playing with your smartphone or laptop. Mercedes-Benz wants to change that with some unique video games and virtual experiences. And it wants your help in creating them.
The company has launched a competition called the In-Car Gaming Challenge. Anyone, from groups of gamers to traditional game developers and companies, can enter, with Mercedes taking entries until May 16, 2019. Mercedes wants people to come up with ideas for games and other experiences such as learning programs that can be enjoyed in an autonomous car, a bus or even just a parked car. Mercedes also wants people to be really creative with ideas. It suggests that games could incorporate the steering wheel and pedals as input devices. The HVAC system, power seats and seatbelt tensioners could be used as force feedback devices. Mercedes also suggests that the car cockpit and the passing landscape could be incorporated, as well as getting other passengers and passing cars' occupants to participate in multiplayer. Virtual reality is of course on the table, too.
We're definitely excited by some of the ideas Mercedes has given as suggestions. Imagine playing something like Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo using your actual Mercedes-Benz's wheel and pedals and the car's active bolsters pressing on whichever side you would be leaning into in the game. You could have the air vents going, too, whenever driving a virtual open-top car. The virtual reality idea sounds exciting, too, but we'd be a little concerned about motion sickness, which is bad enough for some people when using VR stationary, let alone using it in a moving vehicle.
Once the entry period has closed, Mercedes will decide on five "innovator" teams (gamers and other independent groups) and five startup teams (actual companies and professional developers) with the best ideas. Those groups will all present their ideas in Stuttgart, Germany, and the top three innovator teams will get 10,000 euros of development funding and tickets to an ESL e-sports tournament, while the top startup team will get to work on a proof of concept with Mercedes-Benz's parent company, Daimler.