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Mercedes-Benz reveals futuristic van concept

Vision Van details Mercedes’ future direction for the delivery industry


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8 Sep 2016

MERCEDES-BENZ has shown off its new, futuristic van concept as part of a broader strategy from the German company to streamline and simplify logistics in the cargo delivery industry.

The Vision Van uses fully automated cargo space management, a pair of delivery drones that sit on the roof on the vehicle, a joystick instead of a steering wheel and pedals, and is powered by a fully electric motor.

Mercedes has also developed a strategic initiative called adVANce, which seeks to revolutionise the way that cargo and packages are delivered on the road by creating an uninterrupted supply chain from the warehouse to the customer’s door, using a set of futuristic technologies that maximise efficiency in the process of delivering packages.

Costing approximately €500 million ($A732m) over the next five years, adVANce will invest in developing digitalisation, automation and robotics in vans as well as creating new and innovative logistical frameworks.

The future strategy for parcel delivery that Mercedes has envisioned starts at the parcel distribution centre, where algorithms automatically pick and load packages onto cargo racks in a way that maximises convenience for the driver by picking out an ideal route and arranging the cargo to match the route.

Driverless vehicles then load the cargo racks into the rear of the van in one motion, and once loaded, the cargo space management system can automatically pick out parcels and transfer them to a package dispenser at the front of the cargo space, which is then accessed by the driver through a hatch at the rear of the cabin when they reach their destination.

When the driver reaches their destination and is making a delivery, two drones with a payload capacity of two kilograms each are able to be deployed and automatically deliver parcels within a radius of 10km.

The parcels are attached using the cargo space management system, which selects each parcel and attaches it to the undercarriage of the drone through a hole in the roof of the van.

The automated system means that the driver does not have to deal with reshuffling and moving parcels to find the right ones, which Mercedes claims can happen on average 180 times per load.

All the while this is happening, data from the journey is being sent to cloud-based control software to fine-tune the process.

Stylistically, the Vision Van echoes the design cues of recent concepts to come out of Stuttgart, such as the IAA concept revealed at last year’s Frankfurt motor show, and the Vision Tokyo concept from last year’s Tokyo show.

The van is highlighted by smooth, flowing edges contrasted by a grille fitted with an LED matrix, which Mercedes says is used by the vehicle to communicate with its surroundings, such as displaying warnings when the drone takes off or when the vehicle stops.

Its front fender and side sills are illuminated by a blue light, and separate what is otherwise an almost seamless exterior design, mirroring the smooth, rounded designs of the Frankfurt and Tokyo concepts.

The futuristic design continues inside the cabin, with the steering wheel, centre console and pedals done away with in favour of a single joystick controlled by the driver’s left hand – presumably the right hand for right-hand-drive versions – which allows the driver’s seat to be pushed forward, allowing more space in the cargo area.

The dashboard extends across the entire front end of the cabin and is covered with a ‘premium textile’ which can light up with relevant information for the driver.

The floor can also light up with special LED indicators, which can serve to warn the driver of hazards such as approaching pedestrians or cyclists.

And the rear wall of the cabin also lights up with information regarding the delivery process, with the driver able to keep updated to the progress of the cargo space management system.

The Vision Van is powered by a fully electric drivetrain, which delivers 75kW and has a range of up to 270km.

Mercedes has made the van electric in anticipation of future urban centres possibly outlawing internal combustion engines, allowing it to travel anywhere at any time.

As part of the adVANce plan, Mercedes-Benz Vans has also created a project that works with start-up companies in Stuttgart, Berlin and Silicon Valley to combine knowledge of the vehicle sector with innovative ideas.

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