Mercedes-Benz revealed a concept car that can automatically deploy delivery drones, developed in partnership with drone-delivery startup Matterne. The Mercedes-Benz Vision Van aims to show how automotive-tech buzzwords like connectivity and electric powertrains can be applied to commercial vehicles. It is part of a new strategy called adVANce, through which Mercedes hopes to become not a vehicle manufacturer, but a purveyor of “holistic system solutions.” It looks like the humble delivery van is about to get a more complicated.
The Vision Van is, of course, electric, with a battery good for about 168 miles, that is perfect for a day of last-mile deliveries. Its electric drivetrain means it won’t be locked out of cities that ban diesel-or-gas-powered vehicles. There are also two drones strapped to the roof, which can deliver packages into more congested areas. Also LED lights on the van will signal when the drones are taking off, or when the vehicle is stopped for a delivery.
To make the most of that cargo space, Mercedes created an automated sys of racks and shelves to speed up the loading and unloading. Packages are placed in trays on shelving units that run parallel to the van’s centerline, and also pulled out when needed without any human involvement. The entire sys is controlled from cloud, and can be integrated with a delivery company’s package-management sys.
The Vision Van itself isn’t destined for production, but the Mercedes will continue development of some of its high-tech features as part of the adVANce program. The automated rack sys will be tested in a pilot program, and Mercedes is investigating ways to use connectivity to increase the efficiency of the delivery services.