Mercedes-Benz reveals autonomous driving platform with cargo or people-mover body

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 19 Sep 2018

At the IAA Commercial Vehicles 2018, which opened in Hannover today, Mercedes-Benz Vans is presenting Vision URBANETIC, a revolutionary mobility concept that goes way beyond existing ideas on autonomous vehicles. Vision URBANETIC aims to remove the separation between people moving and goods transportation, reduce traffic flows, relieve city-centre infrastructures and contribute to a new quality of urban life.

One part of this vision, which was revealed for the first time on 10 September in Copenhagen, is set to become reality in the not-too-distant future. Mercedes-Benz Vans is planning a new range of autonomous vehicles. The new member of the Mercedes-Benz Vans family will be based on an all-electric chassis – depending on the configuration, the new van will either move people or transport goods. Mercedes-Benz Vans is forming a new organisational unit to bring the new autonomous model range to fruition.

Partnering BASF
“Vision URBANETIC is a mobility platform in the truest sense of the word. 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. Exactly these principles make Vision URBANETIC a symbol of future mobility. Together with our customers, we are 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. It will enable us to focus the holistic mobility solutions of Mercedes-Benz Vans even more on individual customer needs,” said Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.

In a first step, BASF will shortly introduce an on-demand ridesharing system at its Ludwigshafen facility. It features technology from ViaVan, a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz Vans and US start-up Via. 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,” added Mornhinweg.

AD platform with interchangeable people-moving and cargo modules
The Vision URBANETIC mobility concept addresses the urban challenges of the future and offers innovative solutions. The visionary vehicle is based on an autonomous, electrically powered driving platform that can carry different interchangeable bodies for people moving or goods transportation and is embedded in a self-learning IT infrastructure.

As a ridesharing vehicle, it can carry up to 12 passengers, while the cargo module can accommodate up to 10 EPAL palettes. It offers a load length of 3.70 metres in an overall vehicle length of 5.14 metres. The concept also incorporates an IT infrastructure that analyses supply and demand within a defined mobility space.

The result is an autonomous fleet operating on routes planned flexibly and efficiently based on current transport needs. But Vision URBANETIC goes one step further. Thanks to full connectivity, the use of local information and intelligent control, not only can the system analyse current needs, it can also learn from them, making it capable of anticipating and reacting to future needs. This can optimise processes, shorten waiting or delivery times and avoid traffic jams. For instance, the overall system can use the data captured in the Vehicle Control Centre to identify a gathering of people in a specific area.

Based on this, it can proactively send vehicles there to directly address the increased need, satisfying it quickly and efficiently. The system can thus respond flexibly and is not based on rigid routes or fixed timetables. As a fully networked vehicle, Vision URBANETIC is part of an ecosystem in which commercial and private mobility wishes are transmitted digitally.