Mercedes-Benz is getting into package deliveries.
In September, the Mercedes announced a “multimillion” investment in drone startup Matternet, the creator of an autonomous drone. The Wall Street Journal reported that the investment totals €500 million ($562 million) over the next 5 years.
Mercedes unveiled a self-driving van concept to showcase its vision for a futuristic drone delivery service. The German automaker isn’t the only one exploring the drone delivery van service — UPS recently unveiled a hybrid truck with a drone nest built into the roof. The nest would house a Workhorse HorseFly autonomous drone that could carry 10 pounds worth of packages.
Scroll down for Mercedes’ package delivery vision:
Meet the Mercedes Vision Van: an all-electric van with a range up to 168 miles.
The trunk is capable of supporting a “one-shot loading” system to get packages in the trunk and out to customers faster.
The interior of the van has a fully automated cargo space. It features a mechanical shelving system that loads packages and knows where each package is going. The driver will get a notification when approaching a drop-off location for a package.
A drone will accompany the van by sitting on a landing station on top. When the van approaches a drop-off location, the shelving system will push the package to the drone so it can be flown to its final location.
Here’s a better look at how the drone would receive the package.
Matternet’s autonomous drone, the Matternet M2 drone, can travel 12 miles on a single charge.
Although the drone would aid in package delivery, Mercedes still sees the driver playing a role as well. The Vision Van has a specialized compartment where the driver can grab packages without going to the back of the vehicle.
Mercedes is developing a telematics unit for the van that can relay the status of a package to the distribution manager so last-minute delivery changes can be made easily.
Andreas Raptopoulous, the founder and CEO of Matternet, told Business Insider’s Ariel Schwartz that he could see the delivery system working in tandem with a company like Amazon. A customer could order something off Amazon and elect to have it delivered by a nearby Vision Van, he said.
Source: Business Insider
There’s no timeline for when we can see the van-and-drone system in action, but Raptopoulous said it could be another several months or year before testing is completed.