Cars are one of the biggest draws in mega tech events such as Consumer Electronics Show (CES). And over the past few years, phrases such as “autonomous driving”, and “electric vehicles” have become a commonplace at these events. But Mercedes tries to separate itself from the pack by adding a whole new dimension to vehicles – Modularity. Mercedes unveiled their Vision Urbanetic concept at CES 2019. A pod-shaped modular vehicle that can be used as a taxi service and as a delivery vehicle. Mercedes aims to address both the sides of the delivery business with this concept vehicle; one that moves people around, and one that moves things around.
The vehicle essentially has a skateboard-ish chassis which houses the battery, sensors and, motors atop which either the cabin module or the cargo module are docked. Mercedes expects this transition between the two modules to be seamless and says it can be done easily in 5 minutes.
When in the cabin module, you’ll notice it to be quite spacious (obviously, given it’s over 5 m long and 2 metres tall and). You’ve got an ordinary sitting area to one side with large windows, a standing area in the centre and a lounge area to the other side, where you can kickback and enjoy long rides. The wireless charging pads built into the seats also helps. There’s a digital halo under the glass ceiling which displays general information such as weather and traffic updates. The entire cabin gives off a vibe of a limousine, but from the future. (Oh, did I mention it’s completely driverless?!)
The vehicle is quite smart. It has sensors all around and persons before he even steps in the way of the car. Rather than an individual car, Mercedes expects these model to work as a fleet of around 20-30 cars, all connected to each other. The cars are up to date with the traffic situations and events taking place in the city so that they can anticipate and be present in high demand situations such as during concerts and sports matches. Another neat trick is that whenever you hail this vehicle for a ride (through Mercedes’ app), it’ll send you a colour and a number. Say for example, Green 7. You’ll get the colour and the number on your phone and the huge LED lights at the front and the light strips on the ORVM start flashing that particular colour so it’s easy to identify the vehicle even from a mile away. No more anxiously looking around for number plates to spot your ride.
And when the demand for taxis is low like during late night, the vehicle could be used as a delivery vehicle with its cargo module.
Mercedes claims the vehicle can transport upto 10 cubic metres of goods in this module and a maximum of 12 people in the cabin module. Meaning, apart from charging and maintenance time, this vehicle could be put to work 24 hrs, 365 days.
While all this looks really promising, the vehicle is still a concept and still many years away from a market launch. In fact, like most futuristic products showcased at CES, this might not even make it to the streets. That said, the Vision Urbanetic could pave way for modularity into vehicles and inspire future breed of cars to add a whole new dimension in functionality with a modular design.