Mercedes-Benz has brought two van concepts to Nevada at the same time. Nevada in early January? Time for CES in Las Vegas. CES? If that stood for the Consumer Electronics Show, even the organizer doesn't want to know anything more about it. CES stands for “CES” in 2017. Point. And the trade fair for electronics and entertainment electronics became a trade fair for the three important topics of the “mobile future”. Electrification, Connectivity and Autonomous Driving. And so the automobile manufacturers use the first week of January, even before the trade fair in “Motown” Detroit, to prepare the professional world for the future.
VISION VAN VEGAS - Mercedes is revolutionizing the “last mile”
They are not entirely new concepts. Both van variants were already known, but the CES offers the right environment to draw attention to the subject of “van of the future” again.
Part 1: Vans and Robots
Even before the first official CES day, Mercedes invited the media world to the urban world of a shopping center just outside Las Vegas. Just the right environment. Because even if we all write no more letters, we prefer our goods but always on the net. Or wish a home delivery, just in time. In order to master the increasing transport tasks, Mercedes-Benz, together with other partners, is investing an increased portion of brain fat and the dream of robot fans is coming out.
Mother ship and her robot kids
The idea is as cool as it is logical. The last mile is the most complex for parcel delivery. Get in, get out, from door to door, back to the parcel van, drive 500 meters again, get in, get out, ring the bell and start again over and over again. This is not just an exhausting job, it is also beyond any efficiency. If the recipient cannot be found, the restart also kills the last bit of efficiency. The solution that Mercedes-Benz developed with Starship Technologies, a British start-up, grabs the future by its hand.
A converted Mercedes Sprinter serves as the “mother ship” for half a dozen robots. Little six-wheeled robots that are hardly bigger than two crates of beer. Spent together in the Sprinter to a logical stop that was ideally calculated by the colleague's computer, the bots swarm out and reach their destination independently.
And who rings the doorbell?
With the help of cameras, GPS and ultrasonic sensors, the robots move at up to 6 km / h on the sidewalks. Recognize passers-by and red traffic lights. Climbing over curbs and are currently also controlled by a “controller” in a central position. The entire supply chain is based on the end customer's wish to receive the ordered item as quickly as possible. The delivery address can be set and the time agreed via the app. The recipient is also informed via the app that his parcel is now in the robot in front of his door.
The goods should then arrive at the customer's premises three hours after the order was placed. Not just “same day”, also individually tailored. After the successful handover, the robot is on its way again. He communicates constantly with his mother ship and is able to drive back to the place of origin or to arrange a new “meeting point”.
The robots are currently driving up to 10 kilometers. In the next expansion stage, they should not only be loaded in their mother ship, but also charged. In this way, algorithm-planned delivery tours can be set up around smaller, decentralized goods hubs. Big data, automation and self-driving robots.
The vision of “Vans and Robots” gives an outlook on a sharp increase in efficiency in delivery traffic and a “last mile” that will be traveled by our colleague Robot. The cost of this automation? Almost 1 $ / € / pound per delivery. Thanks - I really like to do without the grumpy parcel driver, who often doesn't even wait in front of the door until the doorbell has stopped and has already thrown in his “notification card” before you had the chance to open the door for him. Then it would be better to arrange a rendezvous with the robot via the app;).
Part 2: The Vision VAN in Vegas
“Vision Van in Vegas”: Connectivity and Drones
Let the necessities of everyday goods transport merge with the inevitable factors of digitization. No less than the future of the “last mile” - with the Vision VAN, Mercedes-Benz is presenting an outlook into the world of DHL, UPS and Co. in a few years' time. That drones and robots are part of it? It's not that unlikely.
As the first van in the world, it becomes the overall concept for a completely digital process chain from the goods distribution center to the recipient. It has a fully automated cargo space, integrated drones for autonomous air delivery and a modern joystick control. Thanks to its 75 kW electric drive with a range of up to 270 km, delivery with the Vision Van is emission-free and almost silent. With the interaction of cloud-based control software with optimized hardware, the Vision Van sets new standards for the efficiency, quality and flexibility of delivery services on the last mile.
A prime example of intelligent communication
The design of the “user experience” and the “user interface” take up special space in the overall concept of the Vision Van. The study is an example of intelligent communication between vehicle, driver and the environment. The vehicle communicates with other road users via the black panel grille with LED matrix and an LED display integrated into the rear. It warns them, for example, when the vehicle stops, turns or drones take off. It also signals to the following traffic that the vehicle can be overtaken because it will be in a parking position for a long time.
This form of intelligent communication continues in the interior. Via the dashboard, a wide curved ring covered with premium textile, the vehicle provides its driver with all relevant information - for example speed, information on route planning and details about the drone flight. The Vision Van also sends information to the deliverer via the floor in the interior. Thanks to a special effect, LED displays in the stainless steel floor indicate whether pedestrians or cyclists are approaching. There is an information terminal on the rear wall of the driver's cab, next to the integrated parcel dispenser. It serves as a means of communication for the autonomously functioning system world of the Vision Van. At the same time, it serves as a central control unit to network the intelligent vehicle and the automated systems and information relating to the individual orders.
The driver is also continuously supplied with information for manual delivery via a smartwatch. It shows, among other things, the delivery address, input codes for electronic locking systems and possibly secure storage locations for the respective shipment. There are also new opportunities for the end customer: he benefits from the reliable implementation of new options such as same-day delivery and punctual delivery. At the same time, he can optimally adapt the delivery to his needs and, for example, postpone his appointment if his daily schedule changes.
Welcome to the future of the transportation world.