Mercedes-Benz Vans strategic initiative adVANce: holistic system solutions for transport; electric Vision Van
07 September 2016
Mercedes-Benz Vans has launched an initiative it calls adVANce, focused on the company’s transformation from solely a vehicle manufacturer to becoming a provider of holistic system solutions for goods and passenger transport.
Mercedes-Benz Vans also presented the "Vision Van" van study as part of the adVANce initiative. This all-electric vehicle combines various innovative solutions for last-mile delivery in urban and suburban environments. It is the first van worldwide to fully digitally connect all people and processes involved, from the distribution center to the consignee. Furthermore, it is the first van ever to feature a fully automated cargo space and integrated delivery drones.
adVANce. adVANce focuses on three fields of innovation: connectivity and Internt-of-Things (IoT) applications, which enable an ideal integration of a wide range of technologies into the vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Vans (digital@vans); innovative hardware solutions for the transport industry (solutions@vans); and new, on-demand mobility concepts for the transport of goods and passengers (mobility@vans).
digital@vans focuses on integrating state-of-the-art technologies into vans. Among other things, Mercedes-Benz Vans is working on intelligent parts management systems for mobile service and service contractor vehicles. These include automated reordering processes as well as deliveries straight from and to the van.
One example is developing a telematics unit for vans which collects and processes data concerning the status of the delivery tour, the present location and the load, and sends this information to the distribution manager. In this way it is possible to monitor and manage last-minute changes within the fleet efficiently from a central point.
Another application concentrates on the efficient part and tool management for service vehicles, for example tradespersons’ mobile workshops. In future new holistic system solutions will enable parts to be ordered in a fully automated way by means of an intelligent inventory management within the vehicle, as well as for the relevant parts to be placed overnight directly into the van. Intermediate steps such as inventory evaluation, ordering parts manually and the tradesperson having to equip the vehicle are no longer necessary.
In the field solutions@vans, Mercedes-Benz Vans is working on developments such as automated cargo space systems for delivery vehicles, which, among other things, significantly speed up loading and unloading processes, and enhance their efficiency.
Until now, deliverers need to rearrange their packages (on average around 180 per load) ten times while making deliveries within a residential area and schedule approximately three to four minutes per stop. New, interconnected cargo space systems make loading and unloading much faster, thereby increasing process efficiency. One-shot loading (loading the vehicle with all pre-picked parcels in one go) cuts loading times considerably and reduces the amount of vehicle downtime at distribution centres. When the deliverer is unloading, the system will show him the exact load configuration and make the right package available at the right time for delivery depending on the delivery destination. The team at Mercedes-Benz Vans also has the integration of autonomous delivery systems such as drones or self-driving robots in mind.
In the field mobility@vans, Mercedes-Benz Vans together with various cooperation partners focuses on intelligent mobility concepts for goods and passengers. The latter supplement public transit and make a fast, efficient and individual transport of passengers during peak and off-peak hours possible. In the transport of goods, the intelligent networking of technologies creates opportunities to enhance efficiencies and considerably improve transport on the last mile. In addition, Mercedes-Benz Vans is working on innovative leasing and rental models.
We see the intelligent networking of vans, automated hardware systems and new mobility services as a concrete opportunity to get new prospects excited about Mercedes-Benz Vans. The efficiency and productivity that our new approaches offer our customers are crucial in this regard.—Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans
The transformation of the industry is the result of various economic and social trends, among them the growth in e-commerce, the increasing intelligent networking of a wide range of technologies in the internet of things, and the proliferation of platform-based business models. In light of this, Mercedes-Benz Vans is rethinking its “Mercedes-Benz Vans goes global” strategy.
When we refer to “global” we no longer take it to mean solely geographic ties", explains Volker Mornhinweg. Global also means focusing our attention beyond the vehicle on the entire value chain as well as on the entire business environment of our customers. We are clearly more than just a manufacturer of vans. We think in global terms—that is to say integrated—and always focused on customer benefit.—Volker Mornhinweg
In the strategic plan, the product is still at the heart of the strategy. However, the product will be transformed into a platform of connected solutions and into an integrated system for innovative transport concepts. To root this awareness in the organization, Mercedes-Benz Vans is creating a new business unit and is positioning itself in Stuttgart, Berlin and Silicon Valley in the creative environment of start-up scenes.
The adVANce strategy also includes opening up and working with up and coming start-ups. The objective of working with young companies is to enter into long-term cooperative agreements and systematically develop ideas in the three adVANce fields of innovation.
Vision Van. The Vision Van from Mercedes-Benz Vans is a 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. Mercedes-Benz Vans envisages deployment of the Vision Van boosting efficiency by up to 50% on the last mile.
The Vision Van features a fully automated cargo space, integrated drones for autonomous air deliveries and a state-of-the-art joystick control.A modular battery system enables the range of the electric drive system, for example, to be optimally adapted to the given type of application. It can be extended from 80 km up to a maximum of 270 km. T
The vehicle is equipped with a 75 kW electric drive and—depending on the intended application—has a range of 80 km to approximately 270 km (50 to 168 miles) due to its modular battery system. This provides for an ideal balance between weight and range. Vehicles of courier, express and parcel service providers cover about 40 km per shift, thus a range of 80 km is an ideal solution for this type of use.
The drive system delivers a permanent output of 75 kW (up to 150 kW is available for brief 60 second bursts) and up to 270 N·m of torque. This high torque provides the Vision Van’s drive system with spontaneous response, resulting in highly agile handling from a standing start. The theoretical top speed stands at 120 km/h (75 mph). However, it has been electronically limited to 80 km/h (50 km/h), which is adequate for operation as a delivery vehicle in urban and suburban environments. The Vision Van features all standard charging options: inductive charging and cable-based AC and DC charging. The vehicle’s kinetic energy is additionally used to charge the battery during braking.
The electric drive system enables an optimized vehicle architecture with a level cargo space floor and a shortened front. As a transmission tunnel and propeller shaft tunnel are no longer required, the designers were able to provide the vehicle with a level floor in the cab. This increases the freedom of movement and makes the driver's work easier.
The driver’s workplace, including the rear wall, has also been moved further forward. This benefits the loading area. The electric drive system also benefits the vehicle’s exterior design: the reduced cooling requirements of the drivetrain made it possible to minimize the radiator surface area. This facilitated integration of the Black Panel radiator grille with the LED matrix, via which the Vision Van communicates with its surroundings.
Technology integration. 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 2 kg, with consignments for autonomous delivery within a radius of 10 km (6.2 miles).
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 from Mercedes-Benz Vans we provide an idea of future generations of vans: the intelligent automation technology connects the entire process, from loading and transportation by road through to delivery to the consignee. This makes it easier for the deliverer to do business and rapidly reduces the delivery time for end customers.
Equipped with an electric drive system, the Vision Van not only operates locally emission-free, it also moves almost silently. This means that it can be operated in cities even during times when there are traffic restrictions or for late-night deliveries in residential areas. This gives our customers the possibility of offering new services to their customers.—Volker Mornhinweg
Vehicle communicates with the driver and its surroundings. The design provides a foretaste of future generations of vans. The face is defined by the extremely wide windshield, 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 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.
The designers have done without a steering wheel, pedals and center console in favor 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 or she needs for 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.