On the eve of this year’s IAA Commercial Vehicles, the biggest trade fair of its kind, Daimler presented its vision of the urban transport of the future in the middle of Hannover. The world’s biggest manufacturer of commercial vehicles will make the transportation of goods and persons free of emissions in the future. To that end, Daimler Trucks celebrated, among other things, the world premiere of the Urban eTruck from Mercedes-Benz. This locally emission-free 26-tonner for heavy-duty distribution transport has a range of approximately 200 km. Market launch could be early in the next decade. As early as 2018, Mercedes-Benz Vans will launch a series-production van with electric drive. Mercedes-Benz previously announced series production of an electric city bus. In order to make the transportation of goods and persons by road more economical, Daimler is giving its commercial vehicles full connectivity and offering extensive digital solutions for all parties involved in transportation.
“At the last IAA Commercial Vehicles, we focused on long-distance transport: With our Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, we were the first to show the world that autonomous trucks will make long-distance transport safer and more efficient,” states Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Daimler Trucks & Buses.
“At this year’s IAA, our focus is on cities: we are presenting our vision of urban transport. Just like with long-distance haulage, our goal is to achieve more safety and efficiency than ever before – and also to be free of local emissions. This will make our cities even more pleasant to live in, despite rising populations and an increased need for transportation,” continues Bernhard.
The Vision of Urban Transport in the Not-too-distant Future
On the eve of the 66th IAA Commercial Vehicles in Hannover, Daimler took its guests in the Linden Power and Heating Plant on a trip into the not-too-distant future when transportation might look like this: Goods are packed for dispatch. As soon as they are ready, an autonomous long-haul truck drives to the loading bay. Very quickly, the truck is loaded fully automatically, digitally checked and sets off towards the freeway. While on the move, the Mercedes-Benz Actros with Highway Pilot contacts other autonomous trucks that are traveling in the same direction. They come together and form a platoon. The three trucks moving as a unit reduce their wind resistance; this reduces fuel consumption by about 7%, as well as the space needed on the freeway, as they can drive with a gap of 15 m between them instead of 50. Thanks to intelligent connectivity, the platoon seeks the most intelligent route with the lowest traffic density.
When the truck reaches its destination, a logistics center on the outskirts of a large urban area, the unloading bay has been prepared thanks to fully automatic advance information from the truck, so the forklift trucks are already waiting. The goods are immediately placed into intelligent shelf systems that are allocated to a certain delivery route. The next step is that robots transfer the shelves with their contents into electric vans or electric trucks for local delivery, depending on the load and the final destination. But no matter whether the goods are taken to a supermarket by truck or to a customer’s home by van, delivery in the city is completely free of local emissions and quiet, thanks to electric drive – or it takes place by drone directly from the van to the customer’s home.
This scenario might sound a long way off – but due to pioneering innovations from Daimler’s commercial vehicle divisions, it is in fact very near. Because the teams from all three divisions, Daimler Trucks, Daimler Buses and Mercedes-Benz Vans, are working intensively on bringing this vision into reality. After all, more and more people are living in the cities of the world. According to estimates by the United Nations, about 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. This will increase the need for mobility and the transport of goods. At the same time, people’s expectation of quality of life in the cities are also rising. This involves a number of challenges – with regard to traffic density, air quality and noise levels.
Partially Autonomous City Bus Ready for Series Production Early in the Next Decade
Daimler’s commercial vehicle divisions have delivered their answers to these challenges this evening: autonomous driving, the systematic further development of electric drive towards series maturity, and full connectivity. The first step is the further development of Highway Pilot for autonomous driving, especially in big cities. The partially autonomous Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot can drive at speeds up to 70 km/h on so-called bus rapid transit (BRT) routes, stops to the nearest centimeter at bus stops and traffic lights, sets off automatically, passes through tunnels, brakes for obstacles or pedestrians on the road, and communicates with traffic signals. The driver is on board and monitors the system, but his or her work is much easier. The Future Bus is equipped with long- and short-distance radar, a large number of cameras and a GPS satellite navigation system. The intelligent connectivity between the cameras and sensors is pioneering. They deliver a precise picture of the surroundings and the exact position of the bus.
“Our partially autonomous Future Bus from Mercedes-Benz revolutionizes public transportation. We are the first with a city bus that can drive in automated mode in real traffic situations,” states Hartmut Schick, Head of Daimler Buses. “CityPilot will make traveling by bus in the city even safer, more comfortable and significantly more efficient. That will pay off: for the passengers, the bus operators and the bus drivers. And that’s why we are going to invest about 200 million euros in the further development of our city-bus portfolio in the next 5 years. We want to put CityPilot into series production early in the next decade.”
Locally Emission-free Buses from Mercedes-Benz in Series Production as of 2018
In parallel, Daimler Buses is working systematically on the introduction of a fully electric city bus. The market launch of the Citaro with electric drive is planned for the year 2018. Thanks to the ongoing rapid development of battery technology with regard to capacity, Daimler engineers anticipate a range of approximately 300 km in the year 2025 – sufficient for most bus routes – even in the most unfavorable climatic conditions of -20 C in winter and 40 C in summer.
Fully Electric Vision Van Study For Delivering Over the Last Mile
The new Vision Van study vehicle also features electric drive. It has a 75 kW electric drive system with a range of 80-270 km, depending on application, so deliveries with the Vision Van do not cause any local emissions.
“We believe the time is ready. In the year 2018, we intend to put an electrically powered Mercedes-Benz van into series production again,” says Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “Thanks to electric drive, deliveries will not only be locally emission free, but also nearly silent. That will give our customers completely new possibilities – especially for deliveries in cities also in times when conventional vehicles aren’t allowed to drive or for late deliveries in residential areas.”
Mercedes-Benz already put the first electric van into series production in 2011: the Vito E-Cell. Approximately 1,000 of those vans were delivered to customers in Europe and important experience was gained with the electric models in daily use.
“We at Mercedes-Benz Vans are systematically setting the route for future generations of vans with our fully electric Vision Van. It features numerous innovative solutions for delivering over the last mile in urban and suburban areas. For the first time, it completely digitizes and connects the entire process from loading to transporting on the road and to delivering to the end customer. That simplifies business for the package delivery company and significantly reduces delivery times for the customers,” continues Mornhinweg.
The Vision Van is the world’s first van to feature a fully automatic loading space and integrated delivery drones. For example, when the driver stops the vehicle in a residential area and delivers some parcels manually, other parcels can be delivered at the same time by air to their recipients– even if they are not at home. That simplifies business for the package delivery company, reduces delivery times and offers completely new possibilities for the end customer such as the direct delivery of goods at an agreed time on the day they are ordered. Mercedes-Benz Vans anticipates efficiency increases of up to 50 for the last mile.
Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck with 26 Tons for Fully Electric Distribution Transport Starting Early in the Next Decade
Like the Mercedes-Benz Vision Van, the Urban eTruck also delivers its goods to supermarkets in inner cities free of local emissions and quietly. The fully electric truck for urban distribution transport with a gross vehicle weight of up to 26 T has a battery pack with a total capacity of 212 kWh, allowing a range of approximately 200 km. This technology could conceivable be launched on the market early in the next decade.
“Until now, the application of electric drive systems in trucks has been extremely limited. But meanwhile, batteries’ costs, capacities and charging times are improving rapidly. So we anticipate the market launch of electric drive in heavy-duty distribution transport early in the next decade,” says Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard. “We intend to push electric driving as effectively as we did with autonomous and connected driving.”
Until recently, the use of fully electric drive systems in trucks seemed impossible – mainly due to the high costs of batteries in combination with the vehicles’ low range. Meanwhile, the technology is significantly more mature. Battery cells in particular are rapidly improving: Daimler Trucks expects the cost of the batteries of a fully electric truck to fall by a factor of 2.5 between 1997 and 2025 – from 500 euros per kilowatt hour to 200 €/kWh. Over the same period, batteries’ energy density will rise by the same factor from 80 watt hours per kilogram to 200 Wh/kg.
New Connected Services Significantly Increase the Efficiency of the Entire Transport Process
In parallel to this hardware in the form of autonomous or electric trucks, Daimler’s commercial vehicle divisions will also offer their customers a broad range of connected services and mobility concepts. In the future, the flow of goods will be reflected in real time by a flow of data on the Internet. As a result, journeys without loads will be minimized and waiting times while loading and the use of resources will be significantly reduced. This will increase the efficiency of the entire transport process – from production to consumption. A total of approximately 400,000 Daimler commercial vehicles are already connected with the Internet. By the year 2020, Daimler Trucks will invest about half a billion euros to connect its trucks with their surroundings and to develop specific new applications. This will increase the efficiency of its customers’ operations and will make their businesses safer and more environmentally friendly.
Here are a few examples: The Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck is equipped with an intelligent, data-based facility that helps the customers to optimize electric drive for their transport tasks. In addition to the usual data of a truck with conventional drive, the system “FleetBoard for urban distribution” receives other data from the electrically powered truck, such as battery status from which the vehicle’s remaining range can be calculated. The software also considers the topography of the delivery tour, the vehicle’s drive settings (eco, auto or agile), the weight of the goods (to be loaded and unloaded), temporary driving restrictions in cities, breaks to be taken by the driver and weather information. From this data, the software calculates the best allocation of the vehicles and makes corresponding suggestions to the drivers. The system also automatically indicates possible recharging on the tour or a recommended reduction in electrical power depending on battery charge and goods loaded.
In parallel, Daimler Buses is supporting transportation companies worldwide with setting up the required infrastructure for electric buses or bus-rapid-transit systems – individually tailored to the respective needs in terms of local routes, topography and climatic conditions. And the new “Future Transportation Systems” organizational unit within Mercedes-Benz Vans is working on a completely new services portfolio connected with vans: from ride-sharing to intelligent loading systems and to “one-click” delivery of spare parts directly into the service vehicles at night.
The Future Is Today: Daimler’s Commercial Vehicle Divisions Are Launching Various Connectivity Services on the Market
But the Daimler commercial vehicle divisions are not only working on their vision of urban transport in the future: The vision is already becoming reality today. For example, Daimler Trucks, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Daimler Buses are presenting numerous innovative connected services that make the businesses of their customers significantly more efficient. The new preventive service product “Uptime” from Mercedes-Benz Trucks for example helps the customers of Mercedes-Benz Trucks to maximize the availability of their vehicles on the basis of real-time data: The connected truck recognizes that a problem is arising, reports it in good time, and thus avoids a breakdown by making a clear recommendation. With the new FleetBoard store for apps, Mercedes-Benz software experts will allow other industry partners such as body manufacturers, logistics companies and customers to contribute towards apps useful for all parties involved in transport, in order to make goods transport by road generally more economical. The open platform clears the way towards a single device in the cab for all connected services – also in vehicles from other brands. At IAA 2016, prototypes of 14 apps will already be presented from industry partners as well as from Daimler Trucks and FleetBoard, dealing with subjects from load securing to document management.
State-of-the-art safety systems for commercial vehicles in the city – for the first time with person recognition
The maximum possible safety in road transport is part of the vision of accident-free driving of Mercedes-Benz Trucks. Until now, assistance systems in trucks have primarily been used to avoid serious accidents on highways and in long-distance haulage, despite increasing traffic volumes. With Sideguard Assist and Active Brake Assist 4, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is now transferring the latest safety technology into urban traffic, thus protecting the weakest road users – pedestrians and cyclists. Both systems can be ordered for Mercedes-Benz trucks as of this year’s IAA.
Sideguard Assist is the industry’s first assistance system that makes truck drivers in turning situations aware of pedestrians and cyclists, and therefore has the potential to significantly improve safety in urban traffic. The Association of the German Insurance Industry (GDV) assumes that in the future, Sideguard Assist can help to avoid about half of all accidents involving trucks and pedestrians or cyclists.
Active Brake Assist 4 is the first emergency braking system in a truck that can significantly reduce the risk of an accident with pedestrians in the city. While Active Break Assist 3 automatically brakes fully if it senses standing and moving objects such as slow-moving vehicles or a traffic tailback, the new ABA 4 can also recognize pedestrians in city traffic who are stepping onto the road from between parked vehicles. In this case, it independently initiates partial braking.
In the future, both systems will help to increase the safety of the weakest road users also with regard to low-noise electric vehicles in city traffic. This is an important contribution towards improving life and traffic in the city – for all participants and everyone involved in transport.