Mercedes-Benz has unveiled 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 fulfill the needs of cities, businesses from diverse sectors as well as city dwellers and travelers. The concept reduces traffic flows, relieves inner-city infrastructures and contributes to an improved quality of urban life.
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.
Thanks to full networking, the evaluation of local information – such as concerts and events – and intelligent control, the system not only analyzes current needs, it can also learn from them. It is thus able to anticipate and react to future needs. This can optimize 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 analyzes 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.
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. 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.
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.