Renault, Mercedes debut autonomous cargo van concepts

September 24, 2018 - Debuting at the Hanover auto show, Renault's EZ-PRO autonomous delivery van is designed to help retailers tackle last-mile delivery challenges. The leading connected pod has room for an onboard freight concierge, and following pods can carry additional cargo or separate as needed, Government Europa announced Monday.

Also unveiled at the auto show, the Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic autonomous driving platform has a model aimed at freight and one for passengers. The cargo module is designed to carry 10 Euro-pallets, and the people carriers can accommodate 12 passengers, according to Trucking Info.

The automakers are designing vehicles to integrate with smart cities to address traffic congestion, noise and emissions issues and offer transport and mobility solutions that simply don't exist now.
Cities of the future are likely to be larger and more densely populated, so automakers are developing vehicles designed for those conditions. As traffic congestion worsens, last-mile deliveries will be even more of a challenge than they are today.

For its Vision Urbanetic platform, Mercedes-Benz envisions the autonomous electric chassis will be outfitted with interchangeable passenger and cargo bodies. The vehicle could carry commuters to work in the morning, deliver packages all day, and then drop off commuters after work.

The vehicle is part of a cloud-based big data concept that analyzes traffic supply and demand that directs the autonomous fleet to operate on flexible and efficient routing based on transport demands.

"Vision URBANETIC eliminates the separation between people moving and goods transport. It enables on-demand, sustainable and efficient movement of people and goods – and applies an innovative approach to fulfill the needs of cities, businesses from diverse sectors as well as city dwellers and travelers. The concept reduces traffic flow, relieves inner-city infrastructures and contributes to an improved quality of urban life," Mercedes-Benz said in a press release.

Elements of the concept will undergo field testing at BASF's Ludwigshafen facility where the company will introduce an on-demand ridesharing system.

Renault's EZ-Pro light commercial vehicle will operate as pods that can follow one another or operate independently. The lead pod will have accommodations for a supervisor to manage freight deliveries and the following pods. Pods operate primarily in autonomous mode, freeing the supervisor to complete paperwork or other tasks. The pods will have a joystick controller in case the supervisor needs to take over driving.

The EZ-PRO pods will automatically plan their routes, reflecting traffic conditions, traffic lights, parking spaces and other factors. The goal is to use the artificial intelligence to reduce the cost and inefficiency of last-mile deliveries, Renault said.

Source: Supply Chain Dive