The advent of battery-electric "skateboards," powertrain platforms that can accommodate a bunch of different bodies on top, means that vehicles can become even more versatile than they already are. Mercedes-Benz has applied this thinking to its vans to create the wild Vision Urbanetic concept.
Mercedes-Benz today unveiled the Vision Urbanetic, a battery-electric, autonomous van that Mercedes believes will contribute to a whole new segment of mobility that's efficient, comfortable and sustainable -- and, of course, capacious, being a part-time van and all.
The chassis is the real centerpiece here. Its battery-electric platform is also capable of full autonomy, and it is engineered to mate to a variety of different bodies for different purposes -- examples include a cargo van body or a people-mover-like cabin. The body swap takes just a couple minutes, so with the exception of charging, the vehicles can be in use all day, switching bodies when it's time to shift responsibilities.
The cargo-van body has two different levels for storage, with a total volume of 353 cubic feet. It's capable of handling up to 10 pallets at once, thanks to its 12-foot-long load space. It could be used for traditional logistics, or as a last-mile delivery solution that autonomously whizzes around town, delivering packages wherever necessary.
The people-mover component has room for up to 12 people. And since it will be operating in areas where pedestrians are a given, the front and sides of the body have big screens that let pedestrians know when the vehicle "sees" them, giving those pedestrians some extra piece of mind as they step into a crosswalk.
Mercedes-Benz's goal with this concept was to create a vehicle that could reduce congestion by offering 24/7 runtime, which eliminates the need to have vehicles sitting idle while waiting for a human driver. By changing its body to suit the needs of the city around it, the Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic wants to do it all.