The latest concept by Mercedes is called the “Vision Van” and it is an aspiring project of high hopes for the renown car manufacturer. While the interest of the masses is focused on state of the art electric supercars like the Faraday FF91, Mercedes is investing $562 million over the next five years to develop a truly pioneering machine that will allow for rapid delivery services. The sum is indicative of the importance and size of this emerging field, and Mercedes will not waste time thinking about it as they have already presented their concept vehicle during the latest CES.
The way “Vision Van” works is by utilising a set of modern technologies like autonomous electric drive, fully automated cargo space management and order picking, ideal route planner, and two drones that sit comfortably on the top of the van until they are needed. To give you some numbers here, the Van boasts 75kW of power and is able to cover a distance of up to 270km before it needs recharging. The drones can pick up order boxes that weigh up to 2 kilograms and can take them to a distance of 10km from the van itself.
So the way this works is with the vans being filled with the cargo in one-go as the whole “racks part” is rigid and importable into the van’s body. When the van approaches the destination of a package delivery the automated shelving system will pick the package and place it under the belly of the drone so it can be flown to its final destination. All vans are connected together and onto a central telematics server that allows for last-minute changes on the delivery. The drones are made by Matternet who specialises in drone-based logistic systems while all of the other systems are developed by Mercedes.
The styling of the Vision Van is following a futuristic approach with the LED matrix grill on the front and the extra smooth body lines making it look simply awesome, especially when considering that this is a van and vans are bulky, large, and mirthless no matter how cool you’ll try to make them look. Even the cockpit shines through its minimalism and clean design, with the only element of interaction with the driver being a multi-purpose knob/lever that controls some basic functions of the vehicle.
This vehicle comes to fill in for the inability and inadequacy of the drones to deliver good farther than a few kilometres away from their docking station. Drones will stay the key part of driving logistics forward into the future, but you can’t have good efficiency and rapid delivery results in urban environments without smart vehicles like the Mercedes’ Vision Van.