A tech-heavy look to the future

Auto show season is creeping up, and that means the concepts are starting to roll on out. One of the first out the gates is this new all-electric, fully autonomous, highly customizable transportation bubble from Mercedes-Benz Vans, which offers highly intelligent conveyance for not only people, but goods and cargo as well.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mercedes Vision Urbanetic Concept.

What Makes the Mercedes Vision Urbanetic Concept Special

Mercedes Previews Future City Driving with Vision URBANETIC Concept
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The Urbanetic is the latest “mobility concept” from Mercedes-Benz Vans, and as you probably expect, it comes with all sorts of bits and bobbles to help paint a techy future for the brand.

Let’s start with the styling, which kind of reminds us of some sort of cyborg alien hive mind thing on wheels.

It’s an aesthetic we’ve seen from the brand in the past, such as with the Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo concept presented in 2015, but this time around, it’s progressed to include quite a few more details.

That said, we suspect the real meat of this concept are the ideas behind it, rather than the aesthetic draped on top of it.

The exterior comes equipped with an array of displays and lights that will effectively notify others around the vehicle that the car has “noticed” them, providing a platform whereby the car can interact with pedestrians and other nearby drivers as well.

The Idea Behind The Concept

Mercedes Previews Future City Driving with Vision URBANETIC Concept
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“Vision Urbanetic eliminates the separation between people moving and goods transport,” Merc explains in a press release. “It enables on-demand, sustainable and efficient movement of people and goods - and applies an innovative approach to fulfill the needs of cities, businesses from diverse sectors as well as city dwellers and travelers.”

Essentially, Merc hopes this concept will help to ease congestion and improve the efficiency of inner-city infrastructure, and as a consequence, improve the overall quality of life for those living in an urban environment.

What’s more, the all-electric powertrain will help to lower ambient street noise and local emissions, while the autonomous drive should offer greater freedom when going about city planning thanks to its integration with a “holistic system solution.”

“As a fully networked vehicle, Vision Urbanetic is part of an ecosystem in which commercial and private mobility wishes are transmitted digitally,” Mercedes says. “Vision Urbanetic collates these needs and fulfills them with a highly flexible fleet, facilitating a considerable improvement in the use of resources.”

Flexibility And Function

Mercedes Previews Future City Driving with Vision URBANETIC Concept
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Underneath it all, the Mercedes Vision Urbanetic Concept is like a big all-electric skateboard, fitting a variety of different bodies and playing a number of different roles.

The bodies can be swapped in “just a few minutes,” and fall primarily into two unique camps - moving people, and moving goods.

When it comes to moving people, the concept is essentially a self-driving ride-sharing service, with as many as 12 passengers accommodated inside. We can imagine a variety of luxurious set-ups offered as well.

For cargo, the body can hold up to ten standard pallets. There’s also a variable load floor, with up to two levels accommodating as much as 10 square meters (107.6 square feet) of stuff.

Alternatively, the vehicle can use an automated cargo space system, which enables its use as a mobile package station for “last-mile deliveries.” Mercedes also points out that the variable structure is adaptable and can fit a variety of applications appropriate to any number of businesses and industries.

Autonomous Technology

Mercedes Previews Future City Driving with Vision URBANETIC Concept
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The real motivator behind this concept is fully autonomous driving technology and all the possibilities it can offer. As such, a full gamut of sensors and cameras mounted around the car make it all work properly.

Clearly, this technology has myriad uses, especially when it comes to moving freight and cargo.

With robot drivers, business operating costs can drop “significantly,” as no human driver means the vehicle can be put to use 24/7, 365 days a year. What’s more, the chassis can drive itself even without a body, adding even more flexibility.

The benefits continue inside, where the lack of a steering wheel, pedals, and dash controls means there’s even more space for folks and cargo.

Interestingly, the car will connect with the greater surrounding data network, analyzing in real time various parameters. As part of a “self-driving fleet,” the car will map out specific routes that are “planned flexibly and efficiently on the basis of current transportation needs.” The system also includes learning parameters that can adapt to the situation at hand, for example, anticipating higher traffic loads during an upcoming concert or similar event.

Final Thoughts

Mercedes Previews Future City Driving with Vision URBANETIC Concept
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While the style this thing brings to the table is a bit… questionable, the ideas behind it are rock solid.

Self-driving electric vehicles are undoubtedly the way forward, as evidenced by the long list of benefits listed above. Most enthusiasts think of such machines as the work of the devil, but the thing is, folks who prefer to drive will still that option - just not necessarily in the congested urban environment.

Concepts like the Urbanetic are centered around easing simple transportation, not a fun run on a favorite back road, so don’t worry.

Further Reading

2015 Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2015 Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo.

CES 2018 Weirdness: Nissan's Brain-to-Car Communication
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Read more autonomous cars news.

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Read more Mercedes-Benz news.

Mercedes-Benz Vans presents its Vision URBANETIC, a revolutionary mobility concept that goes way beyond existing ideas on autonomous vehicles. Vision URBANETIC eliminates the separation between people moving and goods transport. It enables on-demand, sustainable and efficient movement of people and goods – and applies an innovative approach to fulfil the needs of cities, businesses from diverse sectors as well as city dwellers and travellers. The concept reduces traffic flows, relieves inner-city infrastructures and contributes to an improved quality of urban life.

As part of a holistic system solution, Vision URBANETIC addresses future urban challenges and offers innovative solutions. The visionary concept is based on a self-driving, electrically powered chassis that can take different switchable bodies for people moving or goods transport. As a ride-sharing vehicle, Vision URBANETIC can accommodate up to twelve passengers, while the cargo module can carry up to ten EPAL pallets. A load space 3.70 metres long fits into a total vehicle length of 5.14 metres. Plus, the concept incorporates an IT infrastructure that analyses in real time the supply and demand within a defined area. The result is a self-driving fleet, with routes planned flexibly and efficiently on the basis of current transportation needs. All of this makes Vision URBANETIC a groundbreaking concept for future urban mobility.

Thanks to full networking, the evaluation of local information – such as concerts and events – and intelligent control, the system not only analyses current needs, it can also learn from them. It is thus able to anticipate and react to future needs. This can optimise processes and help shorten waiting and delivery times and avoid traffic jams. For instance, the overall system can use the data captured by the vehicle control centre – which collates and analyses needs – to identify a crowd of people gathering in a certain area. It can send vehicles there to quickly and efficiently satisfy the increased demand. The system can thus react flexibly and is not based on rigid routes or fixed timetables.

Fully networked and part of a comprehensive ecosystem

Mercedes-Benz Vans is pursuing an ambitious target with its Vision URBANETIC. It envisages transporting more people and goods with fewer vehicles on a virtually unchanged roads infrastructure in order to relieve inner cities and, at the same time, fulfil continually growing mobility requirements and customer desires. This would ultimately facilitate an improved quality of urban life – with flexible and comfortable movement of people, efficient and sustainable transportation of goods, significantly lower noise and pollutant emissions and greater freedom in city planning.

As a fully networked vehicle, Vision URBANETIC is part of an ecosystem in which commercial and private mobility wishes are transmitted digitally. Vision URBANETIC collates these needs and fulfils them with a highly flexible fleet, facilitating a considerable improvement in the use of resources.

Two interchangeable modules for people and goods

To achieve this level of flexibility, Vision URBANETIC is equipped with different interchangeable bodies depending on purpose of use. As a ride-sharing vehicle with a people-mover body, Vision URBANETIC offers space for up to twelve passengers. The modules are switched either automatically or manually, with the automated process taking just a few minutes. The system is based on an autonomous driving platform onto which the respective bodies are fixed. It incorporates all the driving functions, meaning the autonomous chassis can also make its way to its next job location without a body attached. Absolute safety is guaranteed by redundant components for all relevant actions such as steering, braking and acceleration.

The cargo module serves as a classic goods transporter. Thanks to its variable load floor, it can be divided into two levels and transport up to ten EPAL palettes. The load space has a volume of 10 m3. Alternatively, the vehicle can be fitted with fully automated cargo-space systems and used as a mobile package station for last-mile deliveries. Multiple further use cases are also conceivable as the concept can be equipped with a wide array of bodies for other sectors and applications.

Greater freedom for interior design

Thanks to fully automated driverless operation, operating costs fall significantly with Vision URBANETIC. Plus, with the exception of charging times for the battery-electric drive and maintenance periods, each vehicle can be in use around the clock, 365 days a year. It means, for example, profitable operation of local public transport solutions which would not be commercially viable with a driver. Likewise, the concept provides an answer to an ever-increasing demand in areas such as the logistics sector – a lack of drivers. Companies are already finding it extremely difficult or impossible to fill vacancies. In light of this, a German trade magazine voted “Fahrermangel” (lack of drivers) the 2017 Logistics Word of the Year.

The absence of a driver’s cab also frees up space for interior design. Steering wheel, pedals, dashboard and the entire cockpit are things of the past. The space can instead be used for additional passengers or a higher goods volume.

On a factory site or roaming freely in the city

The system architecture of the autonomous Vision URBANETIC ensures continual route adaptation using real-time traffic information. The operator’s fleet management is also part of the IT system, with usage conceivable in restricted areas such as a factory site or airport as well as in road traffic.

Vision URBANETIC’s electric drive delivers zero-local-emissions mobility, thus making it the perfect vehicle for city centres and areas subject to legal access restrictions. The virtually noiseless electric drive also presents new options for late or night-time deliveries and thus offers major commercial potential.

Establish trust through active communication with the outside world

Many people still view autonomous vehicles with the certain degree of scepticism. To address this, Vision URBANETIC adopts a new approach, particularly with its people-mover body. The vehicle uses multiple cameras and sensor systems to observe its surroundings in their entirety and communicates actively with them. It uses the large-format display on the front of the vehicle to inform pedestrians crossing the street in front of it that it has noticed them.

Another highlight is digital shadowing around the side door. Several hundred light units display the contours of approaching individuals along the flanks, signalling to them that the Vision URBANETIC has noticed them.

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