The concept of invisibility has intrigued the imaginations of countless people over the years. That’s why it so often pops up in literature (The Invisible Man, the Harry Potter books), TV series (Star Trek, Heroes), movies (Predator, the Lord of the Rings series), and comics (Fantastic Four, Wonder Woman). Undoubtedly, many forward-thinking dreamers have wondered: what if we could make ordinary objects invisible?
Guess what? Mercedes has created an invisible car!*
*- well… kind of. But not really, Although… forget it. Just keep reading.
Why has the German luxury carmaker decided to undertake this project? Not to further its reputation of excellence in automotive production. Not to pioneer a new feature for future customers. Nope. Mercedes made the invisible car… for marketing purposes.
Confused? We’ll explain.
Mercedes-Benz is venturing into the alternative-fuel vehicle market with its B-Class F-Cell car. Unlike many American hybrid vehicles which run on electricity or natural gas, the F-Cell vehicles will be powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology. This allows each F-Cell car to emit nothing more than water vapor – thus eliminating any effect on the environment whatsoever.
This got the people at Mercedes thinking: how do we promote a vehicle that is “invisible” to the environment? The answer was obvious: make the car itself invisible! Just don’t tell the auto insurance companies … that would be a nightmare!
So engineers took one of Mercedes’ F-Cell vehicles and completely covered the driver’s side and roof with sheets of LED lights, essentially turning it into a large projection screen on wheels. Then they took a Canon video camera and mounted it to the passenger side, and rigged it so that the images captured by the camera would display on the LED screen. Then they drove the tricked-out car around parts of Europe over a week’s time.
The result? Well, see (or don’t see, as it were) for yourself!
As the Mercedes drives by, people on the driver’s side see the images of what is passing by on the passenger side – giving the car the illusion of being invisible!
You may have noticed that the vehicle isn’t completely invisible. The bottom halves of the wheels and the outline of the car can be seen. And of course, the invisibility effect only works on that one side; if you walk around to a different side of the car, the illusion is broken.
Mercedes is actively testing a few dozen of its F-Cell cars in California right now, but don’t expect to see them in showrooms before about 2015. The German automaker (along with Honda, Suzuki, and a few other companies) is racing to become the first to offer hydrogen fuel cell technology in a production vehicle to the American public. As far as the “invisibility option package” – well, that could take a little longer to perfect.