Mercedes-Benz has given us a glimpse of its vision for the future with the weird-looking Urbanetic autonomous vehicle concept.
The Urbanetic concept, which was presented during a special event in Copenhagen today, is described as "a revolutionary mobility concept that goes way beyond existing ideas on autonomous vehicles." You may be wondering how it differs from every other autonomous blob concept shown in the past few years, and the answer lies in its interchangeable bodies. The vehicle features an autonomous chassis that can have either a people mover body attached to it or a cargo body. If this were a production vehicle, then, Mercedes would save money by developing one single autonomous chassis platform for both its autonomous people mover and delivery vehicles.
The passenger body has seating for twelve, while the cargo body has a load space volume of 10 m 3 , or 353 cubic feet. Mercedes envisions the passenger vehicle picking up riders in the suburbs and ferrying them into the city for work via a ride-hailing app. The cargo vehicle, meanwhile, would "serve as a flexible last-mile," delivery solution, allowing customers to pick up their goods at an agreed collection point and time. This would allow for flexible delivery times and would prevent multiple delivery attempts to the customer's home, the automaker says.
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"Vision Urbanetic represents not only autonomous vans but all our fields of activity because it unites their innovations in a spectacular way," said head of Mercedes-Benz vans, Volker Mornhinweg. "It’s not just autonomous but also electric. Its interchangeable bodies represent an innovative hardware solution and it is fully connected. Over and above that, it is the ideal embodiment of mobility on demand."
We think Mercedes-Benz's vision for the future is quite ugly in concept form, but the basic ideas here seem in-line with what other automakers have predicted for the future. It's not clear how far off Mercedes believes a production vehicle of this sort may be, but the automaker hopes to be operating Level 5 autonomous vehicles in urban areas by the early 2020s. It's already tackling electric mobility and delivery with the electric Mercedes-Benz Citaro city bus, the eActros transport truck and eVito van - now it just needs to make them autonomous.
A version of this story originally appeared on AutoGuide.com .