Autonomous Mercedes concept shape-shifts from cargo van to rideshare vehicle

Autonomous vehicles will theoretically be able to stay on the road for very long periods of time, meaning they can generate more revenue for owners. To take full advantage of that, the Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic concept can switch bodies, going from cargo van to ridesharing shuttle like an over-caffeinated workaholic juggling part-time jobs.

Similar to the Toyota e-Palette concept unveiled at CES 2018, the Mercedes consists of a flat chassis and multiple bodies that can be snapped in place like Lego. A passenger version can accommodate up to 12 people (eight seated, four standing), but that can be substituted for a cargo box. All mechanical components are housed in the flat chassis, an idea that dates back to the General Motors Autonomy concept of the early 2000s. This, along with the elimination of a driver’s cab, maximizes interior space.

Bodies are designed to be switched manually or through an automatic system that takes just a few minutes, according to Mercedes. The bare chassis was also designed to drive around without a body, giving operators a bit more flexibility. Mercedes envisions fleet operators digitally summoning one of these vehicles when needed. The automaker believes this will allow the same amount of people and cargo to be transported with fewer vehicles, allowing urban areas to grow economically without the need for more road construction.

With a body attached, the Vision Urbanetic can use an array of cameras and sensors to observe its surroundings, and communicate to other road users with lights. The vehicle can, for example, illuminate a frontal display to tell pedestrians that it’s giving them the right of way. Inside, augmented reality displays can sync with a passenger’s smartphone and display personalized information.

The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic is just a concept vehicle; it’s unclear if anything even remotely similar will ever make it to production. But Mercedes’ prediction that future self-driving cars will be used mostly by fleets is sound. Deploying autonomous cars in ridesharing or delivery services is a lot less risky than selling them to individual buyers. It allows companies to maintain more control over this new and untested technology, and make more money off of it in the long run.


We get up close with the Vision iNext concept to learn about BMW’s future

Through a massive worldwide campaign that visits various major cities around the world, we get our exclusive opportunity to get up close and personal with BMW’s latest Vision iNEXT Concept to learn about automaker’s future plans.

Volvo wants to build a future in which you can’t wait to commute to work

Volvo's futuristic 360c concept embodies the changes sweeping across the automotive industry. It's electric, fully autonomous, and connected. The firm wants to start a conversation about the role self-driving cars will play in the future.
Product Review

It looks like a concept, but the Lexus LC500 is very much a real-life stunner

The LC500 sports car combines exotic looks, a raucous V8 engine, sumptuous interior, and responsive steering to make one of the most compelling Lexus-badged models ever and one of the sexiest vehicles on sale.
Product Review

Mercedes’ 2019 Sprinter proves vans don’t have to be low-tech

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter boasts infotainment and driver-assist tech from Mercedes’ passenger cars. It’s not something normally seen on big vans, but it makes the Sprinter a much easier vehicle to use.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Self-balancing skates, tiny tripods, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

An elevator in your garage? Boring Company gets OK to test Loop Lift from tunnel

The Hawthorne (California) City Council gave Elon Musk's Boring Company the go-ahead to construct a Loop Lift prototype. The lift will connect the company's existing underground hyperloop to a residential garage.
Product Review

Alfa Romeo delivers the quintessential Italian high-performance SUV

Alfa’s Romeo’s Ferrari-powered sport utility delivers hair-raising straight-line performance, admirable capability in the corners, and head-turning style, but comes up a bit short in a few key areas.

Uber has decided to leave its broadly derided current logo ‘behind’

Rideshare giant Uber has a new brand image. The new wordmark logo replaces Uber's previous brand icon, a circular graphic that was derided as an "asshole" symbol that walked away from a clear brand identifier.

Startup inks ‘world’s largest deal’ for driverless grocery deliveries

An increasing number of companies are testing delivery services using autonomous vehicles. Startup Udelv already has experience of running a trial in San Francisco, with Oklahoma City, Oklahoma set to become its next destination.
Smart Home

Amazon reportedly will introduce an Alexa-enabled microwave, amp, and more

Amazon's Fall 2018 Alexa device rollout is about to begin, sources say. Look for an Alexa microwave, an amplifier, receiver, and subwoofer, and an Alexa voice-responsive device for your car. Amazon is maximizing its voice-command presence.

Elon Musk: Tesla is bringing most collision repair in-house, outsiders too slow

Dissatisfied with third-party collision repair shops, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to announce the firm is bring most repair work in-house. The goal is a car as good or better than new with repair completed in under an hour.

Audi is finally taking the wraps off its Tesla-fighting e-tron electric SUV

The 2019 Audi e-tron is an electric SUV aimed at the Tesla Model X, Jaguar I-Pace, and Mercedes-Benz EQC. It's Audi's first mass-market electric car, but will it make a good first impression?

Volkswagen built a 210-mph Jetta, and broke a land-speed record with it

A modified 2019 Volkswagen Jetta just set a land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the G/BGC class. Boasting a 600-horsepower engine, the Jetta hit 210 mph on the salt.
Emerging Tech

Smart sound system will give every car passenger their own wireless audio stream

Can't agree on what to listen to in the car? Imagine if each passenger could get their own way, courtesy of a personal audio stream — no headphones required. Sounds impossible, but it's almost here.