The Vision URBANETIC — a fascinating promise for the mobility of the future

This world premiere has been the absolute highlight of my career so far. A few minutes ago, we presented the Vision URBANETIC to the public here in Copenhagen.

This is an extraordinary idea that was developed by the team from Mercedes-Benz Vans. It’s a mobility concept for the future that could fundamentally transform our concepts of mobility and the quality of life in cities all over the world.

The chassis (on the right) and possible modul variations

2050: ten billion people, tripled goods traffic

According to estimates, about 30 years from now there will be around ten billion people in the world. During these 30 years, global freight traffic will triple. In just over a decade, about 5.2 billion people will be living in cities around the world. And traffic routes in many major cities are already overburdened.

Against this background, the realization that we need more efficient, flexible, and sustainable mobility sounds practically self-evident. However, in the search for solutions to this challenge, the right path is far from self-evident. I’m proud to say that we’ve succeeded in finding a solution in the form of the Vision URBANETIC.

Autonomous, intelligent, flexible

At the heart of the Vision URBANETIC is an autonomously driving electrically driven chassis (which we affectionately call the “Skateboard”) with different sets of equipment according to the application required. In Copenhagen we presented one module for passenger transport and one for goods transport.

The autonomously driving electrically driven Chassis, also called “the skateboard”

In addition, the Vision URBANETIC is integrated into an intelligent, self-learning IT infrastructure that analyzes in real time what kind of transportation system is needed at any given time. The crucial aspect here is the concept of sharing. During the morning and evening rush hours, the Vision URBANETIC has to focus on making sure that people get to work without any problems. In other words, it will be a key element of passenger transport. For that purpose, we have the People Mover module.

The times in between, as well as the nighttime, can be optimally used for freight transport. At those times, the Cargo module will be used. The two modules can be switched back and forth easily and automatically. As a result, the vehicle fleet is precisely adapted to changing needs, almost always utilized to full capacity, and capable of reacting to changes in demand with lightning speed.

Teamwork has turned an extraordinary concept into reality

A concept like this one can be turned into reality only by an extraordinary team. And that’s exactly what we’ve accomplished at Mercedes-Benz Vans. Engineers, IT specialists, vehicle designers, experts in the areas of user interface and user experience, designers, and many more professionals developed and built the Vision URBANETIC. And I’m very happy to be a member of this team.

The People-Mover-modul

It’s clear that the world premiere was also the result of teamwork in the best sense of the word. We chose to take a modern approach to the premiere. After the spectacular unveiling of the vehicle, we staged workshops in order to explain to our guests the key elements of our concept, ranging from autonomous driving to the People Mover and Cargo modules, the holistic ecosystem, and the design.

The Vision URBANETIC’s functions and operations, as well as the challenge it addresses, are extremely complex and cannot be comprehensively explained in just a few sentences. That’s because the Vision URBANETIC represents a new perspective on mobility.

The Cargo-modul

What the Vision URBANETIC promises

In the future, the important question will no longer be how to get from A to B by means of a certain mode of transportation. The key question will be how to get to our destination quickly, efficiently, safely, and sustainably. And in order to do that, we want to use the right combination of means of transportation, depending on the current mobility situation.

On some days, the Vision URBANETIC and a rental bike may be the right combination; on other days, it might be a combination of public transportation and Vision URBANETIC. Thanks to the Vision URBANETIC’s intelligence, autonomous driving function, and electric drive system, we will have less pollutant and noise emissions, and our traffic routes and vehicles will be optimally utilized. This will be flexible mobility at the highest level.

This is how the future of mobility could look like

At the same time, we’ll be able to address the growing need for mobility with a smaller number of vehicles. The streets and parking areas that are no longer needed can be dismantled, thus creating free space for urban development.

In other words, the overall effect of the Vision URBANETIC can improve the quality of life in cities all over the globe. That’s a fascinating promise for the mobility of the future.

Gerd Reichenbach is Senior Manager of the Department for Strategy, Productplanning and Portfoliomanagement at Mercedes Benz Vans. Together with his team he works on global and sustainable strategies to shape the future of MB Vans successfully.