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Mercedes Benz Reveals URBANETIC, a Multi-Purpose Mobility Concept Vehicle

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【Summary】Mercedes-Benz Vans unveiled an odd-looking autonomous concept vehicle called the Vision URBANETIC. The visionary concept is based on a self-driving, battery-powered chassis with an interchangeable body that can be swapped for specific uses.

Eric Walz    Sep 10, 2018 6:59 PM PT
Mercedes Benz Reveals URBANETIC, a Multi-Purpose Mobility Concept Vehicle
author: Eric Walz   

Mercedes-Benz Vans unveiled an odd-looking autonomous concept vehicle called the Vision URBANETIC. The visionary concept is based on a self-driving, battery-powered chassis with an interchangeable body that can be swapped for specific uses. The URBANETIC can be set up as a self-driving people mover, or have a cargo body attached to carry goods.

The Vision URBANETIC can accommodate up to twelve passengers, while the cargo module can carry up to ten Euro-size pallets of goods. A load space 3.70 meters long fits into a total vehicle length of 5.14 meters. The cargo module serves as a standard cargo space. Thanks to its variable load floor, it can be divided into two levels.

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The URBANETIC set up to transport cargo

For use as a people mover, the vehicle is fully connected and is capable of adapting to current transportation demands.  All of the vehicle's data is captured by the vehicle control center, which collects and analyzes needs. For example, during rush hour a fleet of vans might travel to a local train station, ready for commuters looking for a ride home.

Using a connected network, the URBANETIC can identify a crowd of people gathering in a certain area. It can send the vehicles there to quickly and efficiently satisfy the increased demand. The autonomous vehicle analyzes the optimum route and pickup times. Unlike traditional mass-transit, it is not based on static routes or fixed timetables.

Vision URBANETIC is equipped with different interchangeable bodies depending on purpose of use. It can function as a autonomous ride-sharing vehicle with a people-mover body with space for up to twelve passengers. The modules are switched either automatically or manually, with the automated process taking just a few minutes.

The propulsion system is based on a "skateboard" autonomous driving platform onto which the respective bodies are attached as needed. The platform incorporates all the driving functions, meaning the autonomous chassis can travel to its next job location without a body attached. For safety, Mercedes Benz would have a backup system using redundancy for all components responsible for steering, braking and acceleration.

As an option, the vehicle can be fitted with fully automated cargo-space systems and used as a mobile package station for last-mile deliveries. Multiple further use cases are also conceivable as the concept can be equipped with a wide array of bodies for other sectors and applications.

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The URBANTETIC can be set up as a comfortable, autonomous people mover

The absence of a driver's cab also frees up space for interior design. Steering wheel, pedals, dashboard and the entire cockpit are obsolete. The space can instead be used for additional passengers, infotainment options, or a higher goods volume.

The system architecture of the autonomous Vision URBANETIC ensures continual route adaptation using real-time traffic information. The operator's fleet management is also part of the IT system, with usage conceivable in restricted areas such as a factory site or airport as well as in road traffic.

Vision URBANETIC's electric drive delivers zero-local-emissions mobility, thus making it the perfect vehicle for crowded city center and areas subject to legal access restrictions. The virtually noiseless electric drive also presents new options for late or night-time deliveries without disturbing sleeping residents.

Pedestrian Friendly

Many people still view autonomous vehicles with the certain degree of caution, especially pedestrians. To address this, Vision URBANETIC adopts a new approach, particularly when outfitted 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 a large-format display on the front of the vehicle to letting pedestrians know what the vehicle is doing, such as yielding so a person crossing the street in front of the vehicle.

Another highlight is digital shadowing around the side door. Several hundred light units display the contours of approaching individuals along the flanks like a mirror, signalling to them that the Vision URBANETIC is aware of their presence.

With its new concept, automakers like Mercedes are exploring ways to to become on-demand mobility service providers, as a decline in personal car ownership is expected. With the URBANETIC, Mercedes is working to develop an ecosystem around smart and on-demand mobility.

Mercedes-Benz Vans is pursuing an ambitious target with its Vision URBANETIC. The automaker envisions transporting more people and goods using fewer vehicles on existing roads infrastructure in order to relieve congestion in cities while fulfilling mobility requirements and meeting rider needs.

The result is an improved quality of life in urban areas by offering an efficient way to transport people or goods.

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