The Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic is a self-driving pod EV
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It's raining ride-sharing, self-driving cars right now. Just the other day Volvo revealed the 360c concept (which turns into a bed or an office on wheels), joining the likes of Renault and Smart with a skin in the game.
And that's on top of companies like Tesla, who are itching to hit the metaphorical go button on their existing self-driving tech.
It should come as no surprise to see Mercedes-Benz reveal their entrant overnight — the Vision Urbanetic.
The Urbanetic lands somewhere in the middle of those two concepts. Although it looks like a diminutive, cute little thing in pictures ... it's actually rather large. It comes with interchangeable bodies; the longest of which is just over five metres. Mated to a people-mover platform, it can hold up to 12 people at a time (eight sitting, and four standing towards the front).
This helps pitch the Urbanetic as another curious entrant specifically to the ride-sharing game. You won't own one of these things, per se, but could easily hop aboard one and ride from one side of Auckland City to the other.
I mentioned that the Urbanetic has interchangeable bodies. The one above is intended for housing people, while the one below (looking like some kind of toaster/suitcase hybrid) is designed for simply shifting cargo. It comes with a loading area that's 3.7 metres long, with storage capabilities sitting at almost 10,000 cubic metres.
No, you're not expected to change the bodies of these autonomous cars by hand. Instead Mercedes say that the Urbanetic will drive itself to a changing platform that will use hydraulic infrastructure to swap the bodies from the skateboard chassis in a quick process that reportedly takes minutes.
Other details like range, charging times, or power output haven't been revealed by Mercedes, which perhaps points to how far down the line the Urbanetic's development is. Nonetheless, one of these mainstream manufacturers will surely crack the autonomous, ride-sharing code soon enough.