We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: 2019 is the year of the electric, connected, autonomous pod thing. Mercedes plainly thinks so, too, which is why it’s not just brought the new CLA to CES.
Enter the Vision Urbanetic—quite literally the Mercedes-Benz of electric, connected, autonomous pod things. Like the others, it’s an electrically powered skateboard to which you can fasten many different bodies. This one is designed to carry passengers, but naturally, there would also be ones for carrying things.
The design relies on a philosophy Mercedes calls ‘informed trust’, which aims to help people trust the actions of autonomous vehicles by communicating exactly what the vehicle is planning on doing next. There’s a big display on the front of the Urbanetic, so it can communicate with, for example, people trying to cross the road. The side door does much the same—they reassure pedestrians, cyclists and so on that they’ve been seen, and that the vehicle will act accordingly.
Of course, all the Urbanetics would be connected. Merc’s system “analyzes supply and demand in real time,” resulting in an “autonomous fleet whose routes are planned flexibly and efficiently on the basis of current transport needs.” It can also learn, so it can anticipate and respond to things more quickly. If a club kicks out at a certain time every Friday night, for example, a load of Urbanetics could be sent there to ferry the student drunkards home without them even having to ask.
It remains to be seen exactly who’d sluice the sick out of them afterwards, though.
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.