The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future

Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future

If a self-driving revolution pans out, autonomy is going to be woven into the fabric of all sorts of transportation needs—personal driving, cargo shipments, long-haul trucking. On Monday, Daimler pitched a concept that aims to encompass multiple uses called the Vision URBANETIC, which it says can be fitted with different modules to suit different needs.

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Mercedes says the Vision URBANETIC (blame them for the all-caps, not me) is designed to easily switch between operating as a cargo operator for transporting goods or for ferrying up to 12 people around town, in a matter of a few minutes.

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Mercedes characterizes the concept as “groundbreaking,” but automakers and tech companies have been pitching an idea to maximize the use of a single vehicle in recent years, like Rinspeed’s Snap concept or Toyota’s E-Pallete, with the latter hoping to launch by 2020.

Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future

It’s a simple idea at its core: with an automated system, a vehicle can be in use 365 days a year, around the clock. How much time does your car spend not being driven? Mercedes thinks that means vehicles like the Vision URBANETIC could be used to achieve profitable operation of local public transit systems which can’t be viable by using a driver. Similarly, with a shortage of drivers, it could fill the gap when companies need cargo deliveries to be completed.

All this, of course, hinges on autonomous technology being proven to work at scale without human intervention, which we’re no where near to date.

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But at the very least, Mercedes is presenting an interesting concept, one that makes sense for how autonomy could be utilized in the future—even if it is a tad, uh, jarring to look at first.

Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future
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Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future
Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future
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Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future
Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future
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Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future
Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future
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Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future
Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future
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Illustration for article titled The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic Is a One-Size-Fits-All-Use Autonomous Box of the Future

You excited about the future yet?

Senior Reporter, Jalopnik/Special Projects Desk

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DISCUSSION

Okay, so two things. One:

is designed to easily switch between operating as a cargo operator for transporting goods or for ferrying up to 12 people around town, in a matter of a few minutes.

Mercedes characterizes the concept as “groundbreaking,”

That’s not groundbreaking. That’s basically what minivans have been doing for a few decades now. Fold down or remove the back seats and bam, you basically have a Ford Transit.

Secondly:

Similarly, with a shortage of drivers, it could fill the gap when companies need cargo deliveries to be completed.

Uh, who is going to deliver the packages once the vehicle gets to the destination? I guess this would work for delivery to a shipping center or post office where you are fully unloading the vehicle and loading it back up, but it doesn’t really work for residential delivery unless you are dropping packages at the curb (which I suppose could be an improvement compared to some shippers). You could still have a person sit in it to do the door to door stuff, but I get the impression the “driving” bit of package delivery isn’t quite what puts people off about it.