Mercedes Benz is getting busy on the electric vehicle front. In the second announcement by the German automaker in as many weeks, after its SUV unveil, another electric vehicle has been revealed that the company hopes will help it cement its place in the future of mobility.
The new concept vehicle attempts to answer question about that future with answers that consider the multiple ways we use transport.
The base of the vehicle, or chassis, reminds us of those old tie-on rollerskate platforms, where you can tie different shoes to a wheeled base – remember those?
Well, maybe not that simple.
It’s what goes on top that makes the difference, and the swappable bodies envisioned in the company’s press kit look nothing like an old rollerskate – check them below.
Based on an autonomously driven, electrically powered chassis, the “Vision Urbanetic” can swap out the different bodies depending on the driver’s requirement, say for passenger transport or goods transport.
The modules would be changed automatically or manually; in an automated process, with only a few minutes are required for the process.
This is made possible by a fully autonomous driving platform on which the respective superstructures are anchored and in which all driving functions are housed.
Conceiving of the Vision Urbanetic as part of an ecosystem in which logistics and local transport companies and private customers in urban areas transmit their mobility needs digitally, it is of course also ‘connected’.
“This opens up new opportunities for the use of resources. Different companies from different sectors can store their transport needs for a defined time and a defined location.
Vision Urbanetic bundles these requirements and fills them with a highly flexible fleet,” Mercedes state in the press release.
The concept integrates a new IT infrastructure that analyzes real-time supply and demand in a defined mobility space, resulting “in an autonomously operating fleet whose routes are planned flexibly and efficiently on the basis of the current transport needs,” says Mercedes.
As well as that, it learns as it goes, thanks to full networking, evaluation of local information and intelligent control, allowing it to not only analyze current needs, but also anticipate and respond to future needs.
This should ensure optimized processes, shorten waiting or delivery times and avoid traffic jams.
Among other things, the Vision Urbanetic can also recognise groups of people and can send vehicles there to directly absorb the increased demand.
The cargo module of the Vision Urbanetic, on the other hand, can be divided into two levels thanks to its flexible loading floor and can transport up to ten Euro pallets – the load compartment volume is 10m³ and the maximum payload is around one ton.
Alternatively, the vehicle can be equipped with fully automated racking systems and used as a mobile parcel station for delivery on the last mile.
For further applications, the concept can be equipped with a variety of add-ons for various industries and purposes.
It’s certainly something different, heralding another step into the ‘future of mobility’ – and further away from the concept of transport as we know it.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.