Mercedes is making its first appearance ever at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It’s featured item is not a car, however. It is a self driving electric delivery van that features connectivity and roof mounted drones. It is meant to make delivering goods and parcels more efficient and therefore less expensive for business owners.
The Vision electric delivery van has a modular battery system so owners can pay for only as much battery range as they need — from 50 miles up to 170 miles. Most courier and parcel service vehicles operating in urban areas only drive about 25 miles a day. No need to drag the extra weight of a larger battery than needed around during the entire life of the vehicle. Power comes from a 75 kW electric motor.
A fully automated load compartment makes loading the Vision Van more efficient. On board software tracks each package and stores it in the best possible place for efficient deliveries. It can also monitor the delivery process, providing electronic delivery receipts and monitoring the condition of perishables during transit. Two integrated drones mounted on the roof provide autonomous air deliveries. In place of a conventional steering wheel, the Vision Van is operated by way of a joystick control.
Not to be forgotten, the Vision electric delivery van is designed to include the driver in the driving experience. The Van blends input from the Van itself, the operator, and the outside environment. It communicates with other road users via the Black Panel radiator grille with LED matrix, an echo of the totally goofy front end treatment found on the Mercedes Vision concept car. If this is what vehicles of the future will look like as they purr down the road, please just shoot me now.
Connectivity and autonomous delivery options are at the heart of the Vision Van concept. Information panels in the front and rear of the vehicle keep the driver informed of pedestrians and other vehicles in the vicinity as well as the status of the autonomous roof mounted drones as they complete their appointed rounds. The driver also gets a smart watch device that provides the latest information pertinent to each delivery, including the best route to follow if a delivery needs to be made in person.
The Vision Van can also serve as a mobile warehouse. It can carry up to 8 Starship delivery robots that transport packages and other cargo autonomously to several nearby destinations at once, all monitored by the software built in to the van. Once released from the Mothership, they proceed on their own to the delivery destination and return to the Vision Van mobile hub either at the location where their journey began or at a subsequent stopping point.
This solution is based on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, incorporating a racking system which operates according to the first-in first-out principle. The rack is loaded with a total of 54 load carriers for eight Starship robots. An algorithm calculates a route for the van with optimized stops for unloading individual robots and for collecting empty robots. The robots are loaded at predefined stops.