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Mercedes-Benz Vans plans new range for autonomous driving – announces far-reaching mobility cooperation with BASF

At the IAA Commercial Vehicles 2018, Mercedes-Benz Vans is presenting Vision URBANETIC, a revolutionary mobility concept that goes way beyond existing ideas on autonomous vehicles. Vision URBANETIC removes the separation between people moving and goods transportation. The concept reduces traffic flows, relieves city-centre infrastructures and contributes to a new quality of urban life.

One part of this vision, which was revealed for the first time on 10 September in Copenhagen, is set to become reality in the not too distant future. Mercedes-Benz Vans is planning a new range of autonomous vehicles. The new member of the Mercedes-Benz Vans family will be based on an all-electric chassis. Depending on the configuration, the new van will either move people or transport goods. Mercedes-Benz Vans is forming a new organisational unit to bring the new autonomous model range to fruition.

Far-reaching cooperation with BASF in electric mobility, digitalisation and autonomous driving

“Vision URBANETIC is a mobility platform in the truest sense of the word. We have developed a vision that makes commercial sense for companies and that can make the city of the future more liveable for its inhabitants. Exactly these principles make Vision URBANETIC a symbol of future mobility. Together with our customers, we are field testing technology elements of Vision URBANETIC. We will work closely with BASF in electric mobility, digitalisation and autonomous driving to learn from one another. It will enable us to focus the holistic mobility solutions of Mercedes-Benz Vans even more on individual customer needs”, explains Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.

In a first step, BASF will shortly introduce an on-demand ridesharing system at its Ludwigshafen facility. It features technology from ViaVan, a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz Vans and US startup Via. Further projects are set to follow in the years ahead, including an electric, fully connected and autonomous shuttle on the factory site. “The aim of our far-reaching cooperation with BASF is to expand our ridesharing service with autonomous components and thereby make logistics at the Ludwigshafen plant even more efficient as well as more convenient for employees”, continues Mornhinweg.

Vision URBANETIC – autonomous driving platform featuring interchangeable people-moving and cargo modules

The Vision URBANETIC mobility concept addresses the urban challenges of the future and offers innovative solutions. The visionary vehicle is based on an autonomous, electrically powered driving platform that can carry different interchangeable bodies for people moving or goods transportation and is embedded in a self learning IT infrastructure. As a ridesharing vehicle, Vision URBANETIC can carry up to twelve passengers, while the cargo module can accommodate up to ten EPAL palettes. It offers a load length of 3.70 metres in an overall vehicle length of 5.14 metres. The concept also incorporates an IT infrastructure that analyses supply and demand within a defined mobility space. The result is an autonomous fleet operating on routes planned flexibly and efficiently based on current transport needs. All this makes Vision URBANETIC a groundbreaking concept for future urban mobility.

But Vision URBANETIC goes one step further. Thanks to full connectivity, the use of local information and intelligent control, not only can the system analyse current needs, it can also learn from them, making it capable of anticipating and reacting to future needs. This can optimise processes, shorten waiting or delivery times and avoid traffic jams. For instance, the overall system can use the data captured in the Vehicle Control Centre to identify a gathering of people in a specific area. Based on this, it can proactively send vehicles there to directly address the increased need, satisfying it quickly and efficiently. The system can thus respond flexibly and is not based on rigid routes or fixed timetables. As a fully networked vehicle, Vision URBANETIC is part of an ecosystem in which commercial and private mobility wishes are transmitted digitally. Vision URBANETIC collates these needs and fulfils them with a highly flexible fleet, facilitating a considerable improvement in the use of resources.

Expansion of the adVANce strategic future initiative

Vision URBANETIC marks the expansion of the Mercedes-Benz Vans adVANce strategy with the [email protected] field of innovation. The company is thus underscoring the crucial importance of autonomous driving to the future transportation of people and goods – and thus, above all, its role as a gamechanger for existing business models. For Mercedes-Benz Vans, the addition of [email protected] is another important and determined step on the path to becoming a holistic mobility provider.

The adVANce future initiative concentrates on fields of innovation that are key to the future success of the transport and logistics sectors. The [email protected] innovation field deals with electrification of the van portfolio. In “connectivity and the internet of things (IoT) applications”, the focus is on optimum integration of diverse digital technologies into Mercedes-Benz Vans products ([email protected]). “Innovative hardware solutions” ([email protected]) pursues the aim of continuous improvement of load-space logistics and adaptation to the changing demands of the transport industry. Mercedes-Benz Van Rental marks the first time a brand has focused exclusively on van rental ([email protected]). An initial example of the development of innovative sharing products is the joint venture with US startup Via ([email protected]), which successfully launched in Amsterdam in April 2018. ViaVan is now also up-and-running in London and, since the start of September, in Berlin with BVG. Further cities will follow.

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