Mercedez Benz has formed an alliance with Matternet and aims to eliminate the error prone human element in last mile delivery logistics, to increase efficiency between the people responsible for moving the goods between a transportation hub to its final destination. Both companies announced in September the creation of Vision Van, a futuristic delivery vehicle with two drones on the rooftop. Vision Vans will be a fully automated, self-driving and digital cargo with two rooftop drones that can be used to access places that are inaccessible by conventional vans,perhaps due to traffic or disasters.
The self-driven electricity-powered Vision Van is capable of covering distances between 50 mi and 168 mi. More than a simple delivery van, it will be equipped with built-in technology to transform it into a complete logistic center. Even though, a driver is onboard, this person’s role will expand into delivery and logistics.
A new partnership
The integrated vehicle of the future brings together Mercedes Benz Vans with Matternet, known for drones. Matternet is a frontline developer of autonomous drone logistics systems. Mercedes Benz is investing deeply in the venture. The goal of this partnership is to devise a more efficient way light weight goods are delivered to people. The days of missed deliveries will be a thing of the past. Drones will record the proof of delivery. “In Mercedes-Benz Vans, we found a partner that is not only synonymous with quality, safety, reliability and efficiency, but is also willing to imagine and create the future of transportation with us,” said Andreas Raptopoulos, co-founder and CEO of Matternet. “We are driven by a common vision to automate last-mile logistics, which today is the least efficient and most expensive part of logistics. Through this partnership, we are building solutions that will dramatically reduce the time and cost of on-demand delivery.”
The futuristic van
The emission free electric Vision Van moves silently across urban and suburban areas, and is equipped with advanced technological solutions to deliver multiple packages much faster and all on its own. The van has many firsts to its name:
– The van is fully digitally connected with all stake holders of the logistics process.
– All data from the time the goods leave the distribution center till the time it is delivered to the consignee is integrated.
– The cargo space in the van is fully automated
– It is for the first time that autonomous drones are integrated with delivery vans.
– The van is a mini distribution center with robot operated racking systems, a package dispenser and a computer terminal that provides all information.
There isn’t a steering wheel in the driver cabin as the van moves on its own on pre-assigned delivery route.The dashboard displays logistical information only. However, the self-driving vehicle will include a joystick to allow the driver to control it, if needed.
Integrating aerial logistics
It is also a first to integrate drone based aerial logistical solutions with a cargo van and has been certified for safety by NASA and the Swiss Aviation authorities. It can reload a battery and payload as well as drop it all on its own.
The technology developed between the two companies is one that Mercedes has been working on for a few years, having shown off a driverless concept car with the same set-up at CES Las Vegas in 2015.
“With our Vision Van, we are going beyond the vehicle,” said Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans in a press statement. “We have been working closely with Matternet to create the world’s first fully connected and automated cargo van with integrated delivery drones. Matternet is a trusted partner, and we are looking forward to what we can accomplish together.”