Mercedes has revealed a futuristic van which it says will feature at the centre of an autonomous, or at least, highly automated delivery system.
The “Vision Van”, which apart from its shape looks nothing like your usual van, is equipped with drones which integrate into the system through the internet of things.
Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz vans, says: “The Vision Van embodies the intelligent, clean and fully connected van of tomorrow – with electric powertrain, fully automatic cargo space, integrated delivery drones and innovative communication features.”
Mercedes describes the vehicle as a fully digital logistics centre on wheels – always connected with all required partners – communicates with the outside world also via the LED matrix in the black-panel radiator grille, “kind of a bulletin board 2.0”.
The website for the new vehicle also mentions Industry 4.0 – a term to mean the highly-connected nature of manufacturing and logistics sectors which is emerging.
Although it looks quite different, Mercedes Vision Van is systematically similar to what the United States Postal Service has in mind.
The USPS awarded a contract to a company called Workhorse Group, which last year presented proposals to use drones as part of a van-led delivery process – more or less exactly like the Mercedes Vision Van.
Although a USPS statement about the “next-generation delivery vehicle” contract it awarded to Workhorse does not mention drones, a report by Robotics and Automation News outlines some of the early discussions.