Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks, acquired a minority stake in Matternet as part of the partnership, Fortune said. Daimler’s overall investment in the initiative, called adVANce, will go to vehicle digitization, automation, robotics and mobility solutions technologies. “We are looking beyond the vehicle to the whole value chain and the entire environment of our clients,” said van division chief Volker Mornhinweg. The goal is to turn vans into “intelligent, interconnected data centers,” he said.
Daimler said its concept was “unique within the van sector,” but the idea of launching drones from the rooftops of delivery vans is also one the U.S. Postal Service has been considering. The Stuttgart, Germany-based company previously produced an electric van, called Metris in the U.S., but it is no longer being produced, Reuters reported.
The new vans being developed will have a range of up to 168 miles on a charge, Fortune said, and include an automated cargo space integrated with delivery drones. According to Daimler, a drone could deliver light packages within short distances of the vehicle. A drone also could take packages to buildings with appropriate landing pads, while the driver delivers heavier packages to locations a drone couldn’t access, for example.
“If a parcel service provider stops his vehicle in a residential area, it will be possible to deliver multiple packages to nearby consignees autonomously by air—even if they are not at home—in addition to manual delivery,” Daimler said.