CES is always chock-full of electric and autonomous vehicles promising to save the future of transportation, but those concepts are designed to move either people or goods, not both. Mercedes-Benz has solved that problem with its Vision Urbanetic concept, and we got a super sweet ride in it on the Las Vegas Strip in the middle of the night.
The platform-like chassis of the Urbanetic runs off batteries and can operate autonomously. Interchangeable modules are then placed on top, depending on what needs to be hauled around. The people-mover module has room for 12, with plenty of windows and a large panoramic moonroof surrounded by an LED light display. Seats are arranged in a circle, with two-level seating in the back of the pod. I didn't get to see the cargo module, but Mercedes-Benz claims it has 353 cubic feet of space and has room for 10 pallets.
The Urbanetic is connected to real-time traffic reports and can also monitor local events and send a fleet out to a location, say a stadium after a concert, in anticipation of increased demand. It can communicate with people outside of the pod through displays on the front and sides. The Urbanetic "sees" pedestrians before they even step off the curb.
Modules can be swapped out in a few minutes, so aside from charging time, the Urbanetic can be on duty day and night. With people's penchant for internet shopping these days, the Urbanetic would be an excellent solution to last-mile delivery. With room for 12 people, commuting might just be made a bit easier, as well.
Mercedes-Benz says this is just a study in electric, autonomous transportation solutions and has no plans to bring the Urbanetic to market. That said, the idea of using interchangeable modules on an autonomous platform is an intriguing way to get maximum efficiency out of one vehicle.
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