The future of the van is self-driving, electric and versatile, says Mercedes-Benz.
The German manufacturer unveiled its Vision Urbanetic at the 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicle show in Germany last month.
The envisaged new member of the Mercedes-Benz Vans family will be based on an all-electric chassis, and can carry different interchangeable bodies for either people-moving, or goods transportation.
Mercedes-Benz Vans says it is forming a new organisational unit to bring this autonomous model range to fruition.
“Vision Urbanetic is a mobility platform in the truest sense of the word,” notes Mercedes-Benz Vans head Volker Mornhinweg.
“We have developed a vision that makes commercial sense for companies and that can make the city of the future more liveable for its inhabitants.
“Together with our customers, we are already field testing technology elements of Vision Urbanetic.
“We will work closely with BASF in electric mobility, digitalisation and autonomous driving to learn from one another.”
As a first step, the BASF conglomerate will introduce an on-demand ride-sharing system at its Ludwigshafen production complex.
Further projects are set to follow in the years ahead, including an electric, fully connected and autonomous shuttle on the factory site.
“The aim of our far-reaching cooperation with BASF is to expand our ridesharing service with autonomous components and, thereby, make logistics at the Ludwigshafen plant even more efficient, as well as more convenient for employees,” explains Mornhinweg.
As a ridesharing vehicle, Vision Urbanetic can carry up to twelve passengers, while the cargo module can accommodate up to ten palettes (See video on how the Urbanetic can shift from one form the other).
It offers a load length of 3.70 m and an overall vehicle length of 5.14 m.
In a further advance, the concept vehicle also incorporates IT infrastructure that analyses supply and demand within a defined mobility space.
The result is an autonomous fleet operating on routes planned around, and based on, current transport needs.
Thanks to full connectivity, the system can analyse current needs, learning from them, making it capable of anticipating and reacting to future needs.
This means the Urbanetic can optimise processes, shorten waiting or delivery times and avoid traffic jams.
For instance, the overall system can use data to identify a gathering of people in a specific area. Based on this, it can proactively send vehicles there to address the increased transport need.
This means the system is not based on rigid routes or fixed timetables.