Mercedes-Benz Demonstrates Electric Concept Van For Drone Delivery Services

Mercedes-Benz is preparing to tap into a hot concept: delivery vehicles with drones.

The automaker launched its Vision Van concept at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, an electric van carrying packages and drones ready to complete deliveries.

It’s based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, and it was first shown in September. Vision Van is powered by a 75-kilowatt all-electric drive system than can go about 168 miles when fully charged.

Mercedes is working with startup Starship Technologies. The vans will carry eight of Starship’s delivery robots.

The German automaker is working with the British startup to set up algorithms that calculate optimal routes. The drones will come right back to the delivery van for another package pickup and drop-off. Vision Vans will have an automated rack system that can pack 54 parcels into storage slots, and a sliding door that can roll out like a storage cabinet drawer.

Google and Amazon have been testing drone carriers over the past year, along with rolling out last-mile delivery services through Google Express and Amazon Flex. Startups in food delivery, Postmates and DoorDash, have added packages to their on-demand delivery services.

Mercedes-Benz could be in a good position to sell Vision Vans to these types of fleets, and to consider offering its own on-demand delivery services – with drones doing the last-minute drop offs. It will take a while, though; delivery drones are still in the test phase and will need to clear several regulatory hurdles to be utilized.

SEE ALSO:  Uber Planning to Roll Out Flying Car Transport Service

Whether or not the drones are allowed to be included, the Vision Van is loaded with a several user-friendly features. These include digital connectivity, cloud-based control software, a driver joystick, and dashboard updates on road conditions and how the drones are performing.

“With digitization and the Internet of Things, we are currently once again experiencing an industrial and economic revolution,” said Mercedes-Benz Vans chief Volker Mornhinweg. “In an era of booming online commerce, the interplay of transport and digitization plays a vital role.”

Through its Mercedes-Benz Vans division, the company has been working on this concept for almost three years. The automaker created a separate pilot project in 2014 with Menlo Park, Calif.-based drone startup Matternet. It will be similar to Starship, where Mercedes vans are landing platforms and docking stations for aerial drones.

Trucks.com

 


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