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Self-driving vans not a priority for Mercedes-Benz

Doesn’t stack up: Mercedes-Benz Vans reckons a self-driving van would become prohibitively expensive for fleet and business customers with strict budgets.

Mercedes-Benz Vans cites cost and complexity as barriers for an autonomous LCV

Mercedes-Benz logo8 Feb 2018

By TUNG NGUYEN in GERMANY

MERCEDES-BENZ Vans has admitted it will not be the first to market with a self-driving light-commercial van as the cost and complexity would push the price out of reach of some business customers.

Speaking to Australian journalists in Germany at the reveal of the new-generation Sprinter, Mercedes-Benz Vans boss Volker Mornhinweg said an autonomous van would also need to be able to navigate intricate inner-city streets.

“On one hand, our customers are really looking for each cent. They have to calculate pretty sharp,” he said. “Therefore, it has to be for them an advantage to go for the autonomous technology.

“For trucks on the highways or autobahn, it’s a bit easier to use that kind of technology because the interferences are not that big.

“But in our field, in the inner circle of a city, you have to experience everything.”

While the new-generation Sprinter large van is equipped with various active and passive safety technologies including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring, Mr Mornhinweg admitted “we will not be the first” with a fully-autonomous van.

 center imageLeft: Mercedes-Benz Vans executive vice president Volker Mornhinweg

However, Mr Mornhinweg acknowledged an autonomous LCV would be advantageous in some areas around the world such as Singapore and the US where delivery drivers were in short supply.

“On the other hand, it’s an opportunity because what we have learned in some regions or cities on our planet, is that they some of our customers they do not have enough drivers,” he said.

“Suddenly, it makes sense because when you find a kind of approach that you can really still can do your business without a driver when you take the autonomous technology, then you can.

“Therefore we are also looking for this kind of technology because … our pass(enger) car guys are on the way to do it already.”

Mr Mornhinweg acknowledged an opportunity for a self-driving van in the form of the upmarket V-Class people mover instead of a utilitarian vehicle such as the Vito or Sprinter.

“Our V-Class is a part of it already because our V-Class is a perfect product when you think about the sensors and lidar and radar, you need a certain height and our V-Class is perfect,” he said.

“Therefore we are working very close together with the pass(enger) car guys to do this technology, but as I said, it opens opportunities, but we have to really look that it makes sense for our customers.”

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