As far as we can tell, the electric Mercedes-Benz Vision Van concept is the first vehicle designed to have its own drones. Making its debut at the Paris auto show in late September, the Vision Van envisions how current and near-future technology could make delivery more efficient, and could deliver passengers to and from urban mass-transit.
Mercedes claims it’s designed to be the first fully automated van, and one with its own delivery drones. Your local FedEx or UPS or DHL driver could deliver several packages to you and your neighbors “autonomously” by air in addition to making manual deliveries, presumably for those hard-to-drone packages. A Mercedes Vision Van would driveo onto your street and the drones would deliver packages up and down the block, while the driver hand delivers, presumably, those hard-to-drone packages.
The van’s automation will make it easier to load and unload the truck by arranging a delivery sequence for the packages. Delivery services typically load up to 180 packages per truck, Mercedes says. Similar systems will be available that can handle part and tool management for service vans.
Mercedes is also developing a telematics unit for vans to collect and process delivery status data and the van’s location and load for the distribution manager. The manager can use this to handle last-minute changes for better efficiency, and perhaps you’ll know exactly where your package is, block-by-block, when tracking it.
The Mercedes Vision Van concept is powered by a 75 kilowatt-hour electric drive with a range of as low as 50 miles and as much as 170 miles, depending on the intended application. The automaker expects the van to boost “last mile” efficiency by up to 50 percent, and it’s all emissions-free.
Mercedes says the Vision Van is key in meeting the needs of the world’s burgeoning urban areas, which it says will account for two-thirds of the global population by 2030. A highly automated delivery van will make it easy to quickly deliver food and necessities ordered online.
Think of a passenger version of the Vision Van, with windows, as a kind of high-capacity variation of the brand’s F015 Luxury in Motion or Vision Tokyo: Connected Lounge concepts (though Mercedes didn’t mention autonomy in connection with this concept).
“In the future, these intelligent mobility concepts could supplement public transit by making fast, efficient and individual transport of passengers possible during peak and off-peak hours via ridesharing concepts,” Mercedes says in its press release. The company says it’s working on leasing, rental and sharing models “tailored to the needs of van customers.”
Under ex-AMG chief Volker Mornhinweg, Mercedes is also launching a future technology initiative called adVANce to develop these technologies and applications. Mercedes doesn’t indicate how soon such technology will hit the road, but considering some of the automotive technology announcements made just in the past few months, especially involving autonomy, the early or middle part of the next decade might actually be a conservative guess.