RAC Cars News


Mercedes reveals van of the future

By raccars Published

Mercedes Benz Logo

Mercedes Vision Van comes with robots and drones and could be a reality on the roads by 2020.

Mercedes has unveiled its Vision Van, complete with pavement robots and aerial drone capabilities.

The electric van concept is designed to boost efficiency during deliveries in busy urban areas. It is predicted that this could yield as much as 50 per cent improvement in congested areas thanks to the van’s ability to launch aerial drones and release its fleet of pavement robots. This pairing can fly and self-pilot parcels from the van to their final destination.

Mercedes as a 'mobility provider'

The Vision Van concept forms part of Mercedes-Benz’s €500 million commercial vehicle division revamp. This aims to transform the company from a vehicle maker into what is being termed a ‘mobility provider’.

The company aims to achieve this through the use of robotisation, automation and digitisation to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of delivery processes.

This means that Mercedes will be a vehicle operator and not just a provider, with the potential to take on competition from phone-based delivery operators and local bus operators which offer services similar to those offered by the Uber taxi app.

The Vision Van has a 75kW motor and a battery and offers a delivery range of as much as 270km (just under 168 miles), together with a maximum speed of 120km/h (around 75mph).

Instead of a steering wheel, there is a joy stick to control steering, braking and accelerating, and the van has a load bed populated with robots. This includes intelligent racks capable of letting the driver of the Vision Van know which parcel to deliver to which address.

Changing times for delivery drivers

The head of Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles, Volker Mornhinweg, said that the company was ‘very proud’ of the Vision Van and its ability to support deliveries using a number of methods, particularly with the use of drones.

Mornhinweg says that the company’s commercial operations are already making substantial profits and building record numbers of vehicles but it must still change in order to meet the demands of increasing digitisation, congestion and urbanisation.

He said that it is predicted that the population of London and the surrounding region, for example, will grow by 20 million in the next four years, adding that e-grocery deliveries are growing by an average of ten percent each year.

At present, said Mornhinweg, the average delivery van carries around 180 parcels, with the driver needing to stop a minimum of ten times per run in order to spend about three minutes on sorting out the load. Added to this, the driver will typically have to walk two kilometres per hour in order to deliver the parcels in the load.

He said that airborne and land solutions were needed to cover the final mile in a delivery’s journey. With this aim, Mercedes is currently ‘incubating’ a trio of start-up companies in Stuttgart, Berlin and California in order to offer greater flexibility, better development times and new ideas.

Mercedes partners with drone specialists

The Vision Van’s aluminium and carbon-fibre aerial drones are built by Mercedes in partnership with a Californian start-up. Matternet has been around for five years and is a supplier of drone logistics. It has already been used by Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organisation in the delivery of medical aid.

The Matternet systems use a combination of information from the vehicle, the drone and individual delivery addresses to make sure that drones operate within relevant air space rules and are monitored continuously.

The drones can carry up to 3kg, making them suitable for around 85 per cent of all Amazon parcels, and they can deliver over a maximum of 20kms - just over 12 miles - whilst travelling up to 60 km/h, or around 37mph. The drones can fly from 50 to 200 metres above the ground.

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