Mercedes-Benz has developed a new van for the future that serves as a half-way point between public transportation and conventional car ownership. The new Urbanetic van is expected to transform the cities of the future so that there will be less traffic congestion in urban areas. The van is conceptualized as a vehicle that will have no seatbelts, no tank for petrol and no driver.
The concept van was displayed at the Mercedes-Benz booth during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Vision Urbanetic van would be used as part of an app-based ridesharing concept. It comes with an open cabin where passengers can choose to stand, sit or recline. When the van is not used for ferrying passengers, the EV can be converted into a cargo van, that offers up to 10 cubic meters of cargo space for transportation of packages and goods.
The van is visualized as a vehicle that would be fully autonomous and would be always on the move, with stops only to swap out spent batteries for fully charged ones. According to Thomas Moser, project manager for the Vision Urbanetic, the van has been conceived as a feasible solution for the lack of convenience, efficiency and flexibility when it comes to public transport. Moser said that it is not seen as a substitute for public transport, but as something that could be used in tandem with public transport to make life easier for commuters.
Moser said that a fleet of such vehicles could enhance the quality of urban life by reducing noise pollution, emissions, traffic and congestion. A system using artificial intelligence could be developed to manage the fleet optimally by designing routes using real-time traffic data and thus moderate supply and demand as determined by the mobile app.
It would be easy for the self-driving vehicle to transform from being a vehicle for passenger transport to a cargo module within just a few minutes. The new Urbanetic concept will thus help Mercedes-Benz to get a head start in the field of autonomous transport technology as it is equally appropriate for use in rideshare and delivery applications. Many automotive manufacturers, including Ford and Toyota, are currently working on the development of new vehicles and concepts that could help them navigate smoothly in the era of next-generation mobility.
There is more space in the van for passengers as no space is taken up by pedals, steering wheel the driver’s seat. The idea is to have benched, stadium seating in the van’s rear to make passengers more comfortable in the case of longer journeys while the front of the van is meant to be used by passengers taking shorter rides. The high ceiling permits passengers to stand upright without hitting their heads.
“We didn’t want to install fixed seats,” Moser said. “It’s important for ride pooling that every place is accessible from the door. You don’t need to ask anyone to move.”
The van has an expansive, domed window in the center which comes a ticker that will have the capability to display the real-time route or points of interest along the way. When it is in the cargo mode, the cabin can be divided into levels using the variable load floor to provide space for more goods.
Mercedes-Benz has not disclosed whether it would be making a production version of the concept vehicle. Moser said that the company might possible debut the van as a beta release before Mercedes it modifies and updates its software over the air for a wider launch.
A company spokesman said that the Vision Urbanetic is a future-oriented concept vehicle that has been designed to address a needs-based efficient, and sustainable vision of the next possible trend in terms of future mobility. We might possible see a more toned down variant of the Urbanetic in the future if it does ever make it into the production stage, possibly as
future technology in a Mercedes Sprinter van.
Manju Mathew, an MBA in marketing, completed publisher training courses from the Oxford Brookes University and New York University. She started with marketing and PR roles before moving on to her current position as a full time writer. Currently living in Dubai, her life as an expat has sharpened her observation skills and flair for writing. She enjoys writing about luxury cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc even if she can only dream of owning them.
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