Mercedes-Benz's Hideous New Mobility Concept Isn't All That New

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
mercedes benz s hideous new mobility concept isnt all that new

On Monday, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the Vision URBANETIC (styled in all caps by the manufacturer) — an all-electric, autonomous nightmare the company claims “answers the questions of future urban mobility.”

The modular design is as versatile as it is ugly. But it’s an important example of the direction automakers are collectively heading. Despite autonomous vehicles being oversold by manufacturers for years, we’re finally reaching a point where they feel comfortable enough to monetize them. Mercedes thinks the Urbanetic will prove revolutionary in redefining our roads. Still, it’s not the newest idea, despite Daimler calling it a “groundbreaking concept.”

Toyota’s e-Palette concept, unveiled at CES 2018, similarly uses a flat, electrified chassis allowing for endless customization. General Motors has the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS), which is the same concept applied for autonomous military applications. The General also previewed the AUTOnomy concept in 2002, giving us an early glimpse at what other manufacturers would try in the years to come.

Regardless of who is doing it, the general idea is to put all the mechanical components into a flat plank that’s easy to mass produce and then stack whatever body type you want on top.

For Mercedes, being able to swap bodies is an important part of the recipe. Hypothetical Urbanetic customers will be able to switch the shell manually or via an automatic system — a process Daimler claims would take just a few minutes. Theoretically, you could use the vehicle as an autonomous cargo hauler and convert it into a 12-occupant people mover within the same day.

That leaves the Urbanetic operating primarily as part of a commercial fleet. Mercedes sees the model as a possible solution for local public transit and autonomous urban delivery. The company even noted the platform’s ability to operate 24 hours per day (minus when it’s charging) would be a boon to fleet managers contending with a lack of professional drivers.

Since it’s intended for city use, the vehicle includes large displays on the front and sides to telegraph its intentions to pedestrians. While this is a fine idea, we’d prefer it simply avoid contact with any and all objects in its path. However, that depends on the success of autonomous technology to work flawlessly when scaled up. The industry still hasn’t proven that self-driving vehicles are ready for a primetime slot, leaving models like the Vision Urbanetic to reside in a rather presumptive tomorrow.

Assuming the unit does eventually end up merging with real-world traffic, we sincerely hope Mercedes-Benz redesigns the shell intended for human passengers. It’s one of the homeliest designs we’ve had to endure over the last few years.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz]

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  • Roader Roader on Sep 11, 2018

    "The industry still hasn’t proven that self-driving vehicles are ready for a primetime slot, leaving models like the Vision Urbanetic to reside in a rather presumptive tomorrow." Sorta like the automobile industry in 1910.

  • RHD RHD on Sep 17, 2018

    Old city buses get exported to places like Mexico and Guatemala, where they get used for additional decades. These electric concept vehicles will have an unobtainable computer module of some sort go on the fritz, making the whole thing unusable. Third world countries will never get our hand-me-downs. They'll have to make do with new, underpriced Chinese buses.

  • Jeff S Corey--We know but we still want to give our support to you and let TTAC know that your articles are excellent and better than what the typical articles are.
  • Jeff S A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive." Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossover_(automobile)]crossover SUV[/url] is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars), however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.The predecessors to SUVs date back to military and low-volume models from the late 1930s, and the four-wheel drive station wagons and carryalls that began to be introduced in 1949. The 1984 [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]Jeep Cherokee (XJ)[/url] is considered to be the first SUV in the modern style. Some SUVs produced today use unibody construction; however, in the past, more SUVs used body-on-frame construction. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of SUVs greatly increased, often at the expense of the popularity of large [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedan_(automobile)]sedans[/url] and station wagons.More recently, smaller SUVs, mid-size, and crossovers have become increasingly popular. SUVs are currently the world's largest automotive segment and accounted for 45.9% of the world's passenger car market in 2021. SUVs have been criticized for a variety of environmental and safety-related reasons. They generally have poorer fuel efficiency and require more resources to manufacture than smaller vehicles, contributing more to climate change and environmental degradation. Between 2010 and 2018 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions worldwide. Their higher center of gravity increases their risk of rollovers. Their larger mass increases their stopping distance, reduces visibility, and increases damage to other road users in collisions. Their higher front-end profile makes them at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians they hit. Additionally, the psychological sense of security they provide influences drivers to drive less cautiously. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_utility_vehicleWith the above definition of SUV any vehicle that is not a pickup truck if it is enclosed, doesn't have a trunk, and is jacked up with bigger tires. If the green activists adhere to this definition of what an SUV is there will be millions of vehicles with flat tires which include HRVs, Rav4s, CRVs, Ford Escapes, Buick Encores, and many of compact and subcompact vehicles. The green movement is going to have to recruit millions of new followers and will be busy flattening millions of tires in the US and across the globe. Might be easier to protest.
  • Sckid213 I actually do agree that most Nissans are ultimately junk. (I also think many BMWs are also). I was talking challenging the 3 in terms of driving dynamics. Agree all were failures in sales.
  • THX1136 More accurately said, we are seeing exponential growth in the manufacturing capabilities in this market. Unless, of course, all those vehicles are sold with customers waiting until more a produced so they can buy. Indeed, there are certainly more EVs being purchased now than back in 2016. Is demand outstripping manufacturing? Maybe or maybe not. I sincerely don't know which is why I ask.
  • ToolGuy The page here (linked in the writeup) is ridiculously stupid https://www.tyreextinguishers.com/how-to-spot-an-suvLike, seriously stupid, e.g., A) Not sure that particular Volvo is killing the planet as quickly as some other vehicles we might choose. B) A Juke is "huge"??? C) The last picture shows a RAV4 Hybrid?
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