AutoMatters & More: Mercedes-Benz Vision Van at CES 2017
In recent years CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) has increasingly become a major show for the auto industry, as was evidenced by autonomous vehicles demonstrations occupying much of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Gold Lot this year. One especially noteworthy vehicle on display was the Mercedes-Benz Vision Van.
Immediately after the throngs of show-goers and most of the world’s Press had left the CES 2017 exhibit halls, the massive and rapid teardown began. What was unexpected was a SEMA Show-like, mini-parade of concept vehicles departing their CES exhibits.
The breathtaking exterior design of the Mercedes-Benz Vision Van caught this journalist’s attention as they drove it out of the LVCC. It is a large vehicle and there is not an excess of aisle space between the exhibit booths, which made it quite a challenge to move it from the LVCC and load it onto its transporter without so much as a scratch. As you will see from the photos, that mission was accomplished.
Unlike many automotive design studies that are little more than empty shells, the Vision Van is a functional, roadworthy vehicle. It was driven out of the LVCC under its own power.
Vans play a prominent role at Mercedes-Benz. What initially attracts attention to the Vision Van is its stunning good looks – but it is far more than just a great looker. The Mercedes-Benz Vision Van is a fully functional prototype of an automated delivery van of the future. It would not be much of a stretch to envision this as a prototype for a future Amazon delivery vehicle that will be launching drones for autonomous home deliveries of lightweight parcels.
Its exterior design represents a vast improvement visually over today’s chunky, utilitarian delivery vehicles – but it is much more than just a delivery van. As is demonstrated in its pair of world premiere videos at: https://www.daimler.com/innovation/specials/vision-van/en/, and as explained in accompanying text by Mercedes-Benz, the Vision Van serves as an integrated rolling test bed for a number of innovative technologies for last-mile delivery operations, and thus sets the standard of performance requirements and solutions for future generations of vans.
It features a fully automated cargo space that presents packages to the driver for home deliveries, integrated drones (on the roof) for autonomous air deliveries, and state-of-the-art joystick control (replacing a steering wheel and pedals). Powered by a 75 kW electric drive system with a range of up to 270 km, deliveries with the Vision Van are locally emission-free. The electric drive system additionally guarantees that it will remain possible to operate the Vision Van in inner-city zones where the introduction of bans on vehicles with internal combustion engines is planned. The virtually silent electric drive system facilitates late deliveries in residential areas for the purposes of same-day delivery.
Cloud-based software controls the Vision Van’s automated cargo hardware. The Vision Van itself serves as the central, intelligent element in a fully connected delivery chain. Innovative algorithms control order picking, the loading of packages, the fully automated cargo space management, route planning for the vehicle and the delivery drones. They also calculate ideal delivery routes for the package deliverer. Automatic order picking takes place at the logistics center, and consignments are loaded into special racking systems. Driverless handling vehicles load the racks by way of an automated one-shot loading process. The intelligent cargo space management system automatically transfers packages for manual delivery to the driver at a package dispenser at the rear wall of the driver’s cabin, where there is also an information terminal that provides all relevant information about the delivery process. This terminal serves as a means of communication between the Vision Van’s autonomously functioning system environment and the driver, who is able to concentrate fully on the manual delivery task at hand.
At the same time, the system supplies two drones, each with a payload capacity of two kilograms, with consignments for autonomous delivery within a radius of 10 km.
The surface of the broad, sweeping dashboard provides the driver with all the information needed to work, including gauges, route planning information and drone flight data.
LED displays on the front and rear communicate when the delivery drones take off, when the vehicle stops or when the deliverer exits the Vision Van. LED indicators in the floor signal to the driver whether pedestrians or cyclists are approaching.
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Copyright © 2017 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #472
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