Mercedes-Benz has unveiled its vision of the future of autonomous urban transportation of goods and people — a concept “van” appropriately named Vision Urbanetic.
The most notable feature of the concept is that it eliminates the need to have panel and window models of the same van by creating a “skateboard” chassis on which a people-mover or cargo-mover body can be mounted on demand in the most relative example of supply and demand.
So, if you have to shuttle workers from a site at the end of the workday, it can have the passenger module mounted on the chassis, and then have it replaced with the panel body to transport materials and/or equipment back to the site.
The skateboard chassis is electrically powered and autonomous. Its 5.14-metre length can accommodate up 3.7 metres of load space, which is enough for 12 passengers or 10 1,200 mm x 800 mm x 144 mm standard pallets (commonly called EPAL- or EUR-pallets) on two levels in the 10 cubic-metre interior.
A fully automated cargo carrying system allows the Vision Urbanetic to be used as a delivery vehicle, and other bodies for specific sectors and applications could be part of the package.
The modules can be switched manually or automatically in a matter of minutes
An IT component allows the vehicle to analyze supply and demand within a defined area in real time, and plan routes flexibly and efficiently on the basis of transportation needs. It also learns from the way it’s used and adapt accordingly for future uses.
Networking with urban infrastructure, the vehicle control centre can identify a gathering of people at a bus-stop, for example, and quickly dispatch as many vehicles as needed to meet the increasing demand, without fixed routes or rigid timetables.
And because it employs vehicles as needed when needed, it also lessens road congestion by transporting more people and cargo with fewer vehicles, satisfying customer needs and mobility requirements without changing city infrastructure. It also addresses a growing logistics need for fleets — lack of qualified drivers.
And it does everything it does with zero emissions and virtually no noise, eliminating two different pollution problems in the cityscape 24/7 365 days a year (outside of charging times, naturally). The large “grille” area on the nose is a display through which the vehicle communicates with passersby, alerting them that it has noticed them (through its extensive system of cameras and sensors), while the door “shadow” lights display cameos of passersby along its flanks.