Mercedes-Benz's Vision Van Concept Is A Nest For Delivery Drones

Next step: removing the driver

Van With Drones On Top
Van With Drones On Top
Think of this less as a van, more as a tiny warehouse and helipad on wheels.Mercedes-Benz

A delivery van is a tiny warehouse on wheels. Away from the conveyor belts and simple machines of a warehouse, humans, usually two of them, do all the rudimentary tasks of delivery: driving, finding the packages in the back, and placing packages on doorsteps. Mercedes-Benz, in collaboration with drone delivery company Matternet, created a concept Vision Van that replaces this routine with an automated system, and adds two drones on top for speedy delivery.

Mercedes-Benz and Matternet are hardly the first to explore this concept, and unlike warehouse-to-drone-to-customer delivery, warehouse-to-van-to-drone-to-customer delivery accommodates the inherent limitations of small, electric flying machines (namely, limited power and short flight times). If drone delivery takes off, it will likely be from the backs of vans.

Still, I’m surprised Mercedes-Benz didn’t go all the way. If the Vision Van is a concept for an automated delivery system, why bother including a human driver at all? A self-driving van, complete with an automated system that loads deliveries onto drones, seems almost as feasible as the human-driven model. Perhaps that’s a future upgrade: remove the ride-along coworker first, and replace the driver on the next prototype that rolls out.

Watch a concept video about it below: