Revealed back in September 2018 at the IAA Commercial Vehicles 2018 in Copenhagen, the concept was created by Mercedes-Benz Vans as an urban mobility solution capable of reducing traffic flows and relieving city-center infrastructures, and is part of a plan for a new line-up of autonomous vehicles.
The vehicle consists of an autonomous, electrically powered platform – dubbed “skateboard chassis” – which can be coupled with a cargo module or a cabin module so that, depending on the configuration, the van will either move people or transport goods.
The modules are switched either automatically or manually, with the automated process taking just a few minutes.
The study also carried out a research on a possible infrastructure with self learning IT features, capable of operating the autonomous fleet on flexible and efficient routes planned based on current transport needs.
As a ride-sharing vehicle, The Vision Urbanetic can carry up to twelve passengers, while the cargo module can accommodate up to ten EPAL palettes and offers a volume of 10 cubic meters.
Due to the height/length balance the dimensions are actually not evident, however the total length is 5.14 meters, with a load length of 3.70 meters – and the height reaches 2.33 meters.
The vehicle autonomous driving system uses multiple cameras and sensor systems to observe its surroundings in their entirety and communicates actively with them. It uses the large-format display on the front of the vehicle to inform pedestrians crossing the street in front of it that it has noticed them.
Another highlight is digital shadowing around the side door. Several hundred light units display the contours of approaching individuals along the flanks, signaling to them that the vehicle has noticed them.
From the official Press Release:
The Concept features an original design that aims at combining intelligence and aesthetics.
“Mercedes-Benz designers were faced with the challenge not only of creating a standalone design language and standalone aesthetic for a completely new mobility concept, they also had to combine the autonomous driving platform with two bodies for entirely different purposes. At the same time, they had to generate striking contrasts between the individual elements. The outcome is a vehicle consisting of three different elements that nevertheless looks like a whole, regardless of the combination.”
The skateboard chassis serves as a technology prototype and incorporates all driving functions. It is therefore designed purely for functionality.
LED displays front and rear communicate with the outside world and inform pedestrians and other road users about the vehicle’s imminent actions and reactions. Instead of headlamps, the skateboard chassis is fitted with sensors that deploy or retract depending on driving status and thus serve as an indicator for autonomous driving.
A visual highlight of Vision URBANETIC is the people-mover module with its characteristic design language and unconventional proportions.
The aim was to find a new exterior and interior design for a previously non-existent form of people moving. The designers incorporated elements from urban architecture into the exterior. They chose an organic form with a natural structure, which enabled a high degree of aesthetics to be coupled with a form that offers maximum bodyshell stiffness using the lowest possible amount of material. The exterior design is, on one hand, business-like, while, on the other, open, emotional and inviting due not least to its unique communication features.
A number of different lighting elements along the outside, the organic structure, provide the vehicle with a new way of entering into dialogue with the world around it. One particular highlight is the person recognition, which projects the intelligence of the sensors onto the outer skin of the people-mover. This gives passers-by in the vicinity a feeling of safety, while at the same time stimulating the urge to engage light-heartedly with the vehicle.
The interior design of the people-mover module has been systematically configured for the diverse needs of the passengers. The passenger cabin is divided into three different zones connected seamlessly with one another: a lounge in the rear, a zone in the middle for standing and a seated area up front.
The rear section offers passengers a protected space with a cocooning effect. They can’t be seen from outside and can enjoy their privacy during the journey. In the central area close to the door is a space where passengers on short journeys can stand or lean. The front area is open and surrounded by windows. Tourists sitting here can relax and enjoy views of the city along the way.
There are premium materials like wood and leather throughout the interior, with brand accents set by the Silver Arrow trim on the doors and frames.
The interior is a digital experience that uses interlinked communication media to offer passengers a continual feed of key information on their respective journeys as well as a variety of entertainment features to make the ride as enjoyable as possible.
It is based on a new kind of 360-degree display that can show everything from the classic information on stops to the location of nearby points of interest to its own little games.
Thanks to augmented reality, passengers can now also bring the city into the vehicle. This feature offers the opportunity to explore the surroundings during the trip based on a diverse array of criteria.
The passengers in the Vision URBANETIC also retain all of the familiar luxury. Tucked away beneath a skirt running around the entire cabin is a powerful air-conditioning system.
As per the skateboard chassis, functionality defines the design of the cargo body. The aim was to use the form to ensure maximum possible load space and corresponding load volume.
This has been achieved through the triangular design language, in contrast to the rounded people-mover module, and the intelligent Cargo Flex Floor, which provides a second load level as required or folds away for maximum load height.
The functional emphasis of the design underscores the sparing use of materials and focus on lightweight construction.