The great art of coachbuilding automobile bodies has been lost ever since the advent of unibody car construction, but according to Mercedes-Benz’s vision of the future coachbuilt cars might get a new lease on life…
Why go to the trouble of making 50 different models when you can make just one? That’s the question the Germans have been asking themselves and the answer is, “Why indeed… “
Mercedes-Benz, then, has just unveiled a sort of vision of an autonomous vehicle for the future, which in basic terms is just a driverless platform atop which you can put whatever you need, be it a cargo module for transporting refrigerators or a people module for transporting yourself and your family.
If you ask us however, this kind of plug-and-play platform is just the sort of stuff we need to reinvigorate the coachbuilding industry that’s cost us some iconic names of the automobile industry – coachbuilders like Chapron, Saoutchik, Frua, Figoni & Falaschi, and even Bertone have succumbed to the rise of the unibody car.
With this new Vision Urbanetic concept, Mercedes is kind of proposing a new take on body-on-frame, which means in the future of the driverless car anybody could potentially design the tops that go on the bottoms.
As an example, the Mercedes Vision Urbanetic can seat up to 12 occupants in its ultimate people-hauling trim, or if the refrigerator-delivery thing really picks up, you have a load bay of up to 3.7 metres long which is easily a metre longer than what you get in the back of, say, a hulking Chevrolet Silverado.
The Germans sure do go at length about the Mercedes Vision Urbanetic, dropping all the usual cliches like ‘revolutionary’ this and ‘innovative’ that. However the Americans have already been there and done that, more than 15 years ago in fact.
In 2002 GM revealed the Autonomy concept at the Detroit motor show to a pretty shocked public, because the car they rolled out looked more like a skateboard – the idea was the same, being a driverless platform for multiple applications suitable for different body styles to go on top.
This, then, is nothing new, but we’ll see just who gets there first in the end.