The passenger-car version of the Vision Urbanetic concept.
 - Photo by Deborah Lockridge

The passenger-car version of the Vision Urbanetic concept.

Photo by Deborah Lockridge

Mercedes-Benz Vans unveiled a concept autonomous, all-electric van in two variants, one for freight and one for passengers at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hannover, Germany. The vehicle showcased the Vision Urbanetic autonomous driving platform — what the company calls a “revolutionary mobility concept” for urban areas.

The Vision Urbanetic mobility concept highlighted at the show is based on an autonomous, electrically powered driving platform that can carry different interchangeable bodies for people-moving or goods transportation.

Wilfried Porth, who heads up Mercedes-Benz Vans, told the crowd of assembled global journalists that innovative solutions are needed for the cities of the future, which will be larger and more densely populated. Quality of life issues, such as traffic, noise, and emissions, can be addressed with electrification and autonomous technologies, he noted. "Autonomous vans make transport and mobility solutions possible that we could hardly have imagined a few years ago, Porth said. "I'm convinced this will fundamentally change the rules of the game in our industry, both in passenger transport and freight transport.

Slide shows the interchangeable cargo/passenger body concept of the Urbanetic as the people-moving version rotates on the stage in the foreground.
 - Screen capture from Mercedes-Benz video at IAA press conference

Slide shows the interchangeable cargo/passenger body concept of the Urbanetic as the people-moving version rotates on the stage in the foreground.

Screen capture from Mercedes-Benz video at IAA press conference

As a ridesharing vehicle, Vision Urbanetic could carry up to 12 passengers, while the cargo module can accommodate up to 10 Euro-pallets. It offers a load length of 3.70 meters in an overall vehicle length of 5.14 meters.

The vehicle on display at the show was the passenger-carrying version, a sleek futuristic pod. The cargo variant, shown on video, was a more boxy cargo pod.

Gordon Wagener, Mercedes-Benz design boss, used the term “holistic” in describing the Urbanetic concept, as well as bringing intelligence and emotion together. “Form follows function,” he noted.

The concept is also “part of a cloud-based system solution.” It incorporates an IT infrastructure that analyzes supply and demand, resulting in an autonomous fleet operating on routes planned flexibly and efficiently based on current transport needs.

“Vision Urbanetic is a mobility platform in the truest sense of the word,” said Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, in a news release. “We have developed a vision that makes commercial sense for companies and that can make the city of the future more livable for its inhabitants.”

Daimler is working with customers to field-test various technology elements of the concept and is working with BASF and ViaVan. In a first step, BASF will introduce an on-demand ridesharing system at its Ludwigshafen facility. It features technology from ViaVan, a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz Vans and U.S. startup Via. Further projects are set to follow in the years ahead, including an electric, fully connected and autonomous shuttle on the factory site.

Using the same electrically driven, autonomous chassis with interchangeable passenger and cargo bodies, the Urbanetic concept could drop commuters off at work in the morning, spend the day delivering packages, then pick up commuters after work.
 - Screen capture from Mercedes-Benz video at IAA press conference

Using the same electrically driven, autonomous chassis with interchangeable passenger and cargo bodies, the Urbanetic concept could drop commuters off at work in the morning, spend the day delivering packages, then pick up commuters after work.

Screen capture from Mercedes-Benz video at IAA press conference

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