The Vision Van from Mercedes-Benz Vans is a revolutionary van study for the urban environment. As an integrated system, the vehicle merges 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.
The Vision Van evolved as part of the strategic future initiative adVANce. With adVANce, Mercedes-Benz Vans is evolving from a mere van manufacturer into a supplier of holistic system solutions. The company is underscoring this strategy with the Vision Van as a visible manifestation of its innovative strength. The Vision Van boasts an unprecedented level of connectivity of information and technologies. It is the first van worldwide to serve as an integrated concept for a completely digitally connected process chain, from the goods distribution depot to the consignee.
The Vision Van features a fully automated cargo space, integrated drones for autonomous air deliveries and a state-of-the-art joystick control. 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.
"With the Vision Van we are presenting the intelligent, clean and fully interconnected van of the future", says Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. "The Vision Van integrates many concrete concepts for future delivery operations in the urban environment, such as a fully automatic cargo space, autonomously flying delivery drones and innovative communication features."
The Vision Van merges numerous innovative technologies and 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 centre, for example, 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 deliverer at the delivery destination by means of a package dispenser on board the vehicle. At the same time, the system supplies two drones, each with a payload capacity of two kilogrammes, with consignments for autonomous delivery within a radius of 10 km.
The combination of a cloud-based control software and optimum hardware yields substantial time and efficiency benefits and raises the quality and flexibility of delivery services in the urban environment to a new level. The delivery time per package and the vehicle's curbside time are markedly reduced, for example. The vehicle also opens up new options for same-day and time-definite delivery. Convenience for the end customer is thus enhanced, and failed delivery attempts become an exception. One-shot loading, the automation technology in the cargo space and integration of the delivery drones all contribute to the described increases in efficiency. The technology also virtually rules out any false deliveries.
"With the Vision Van we are integrating the intelligence of a state-of-the-art logistics depot into a van", Volker Mornhinweg points out. "We estimate that this vehicle would enable an increase in productivity of up to 50 percent in last-mile delivery services."
The futuristic design by Mercedes-Benz Vans provides a foretaste of future generations of vans. It fuses the vehicle's intelligence, efficiency and connectivity in an unprecedented manner. The front design alone is enough to transport the beholder into the distant future. The face is defined by the extremely wide windscreen, which curves around to the sidewalls like a high-tech visor, the Black Panel radiator grille with integrated LED matrix via which the Vision Van communicates with its surroundings and the progressively designed LED headlamps. The sharp contours of these elements contrast with the vehicle's smooth surfaces, engaging in a fascinating dialogue between passion/emotion and technology/functionality. The vehicle communicates with its surroundings via LED displays on the front and rear. Warnings appear when the delivery drones take off, when the vehicle stops or when the deliverer alights, for example.
Being pared down to a maximum level of functionality the interior design comes in a highly futuristic guise. The designers have done without a steering wheel, pedals and centre console in favour of drive-by-wire control by means of a joystick, thereby creating new design options. This results in a unique interior centring on intelligent communication between driver and vehicle. It has also been possible to move the driver's seat further forward to enlarge the vehicle's useful floor space.
The dashboard in the shape of a broadly sweeping arc is covered with a premium textile and extends across the entire front end. The entire surface of the arc is used to provide the driver with all the information he needs for his work. When the Vision Van is in stand-by mode, the arc appears as a continuous blue surface with a black colour gradient. When the vehicle is in operation, the arc lights up and shows a tachometer, route planning information and drone flight data, for example.
The vehicle also communicates with the driver via the cabin floor. By way of a special effect LED indicators shine in the stainless steel floor, signalling to the driver whether pedestrians or cyclists are approaching, for example. At the rear wall of the driver's cabin are the package dispenser and the driver's info terminal providing all the relevant information on 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. It also performs the role of a central control unit to interlink the intelligent vehicle, the automated systems and the information relating to the delivery orders to be carried out.
At the same time, the interior concept also facilitates the driver's work procedures. The omission of a steering wheel, pedals and centre console provides for freedom of movement in the driver's cabin and ensures unimpeded entry into and exiting from the vehicle. The electric drive system does away with the need for a drive line, making it possible to provide the driver's cab with a level floor. The on-board package dispenser spares the driver the time-consuming and strength-sapping task of searching for and resorting consignments in the cargo space. The driver is able to take receipt of packages at the dispenser in an ergonomically ideal position.