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OpenHouse in Wangen: Mercedes-Benz Vans offers numerous digital solutions for efficient transport

Stuttgart – WEBWIRE
Mercedes-Benz Vans offers numerous digital solutions for efficient transport
Mercedes-Benz Vans offers numerous digital solutions for efficient transport
  • [b]As an offer for vehicle fleets, Mercedes PRO connect optimizes the communication between fleet manager, vehicle and driver. Nearly every second new Sprinter customer already uses at least one of the digital services - which can now also be integrated into older vehicles. In addition, there are specific offers for electric vehicle fleets.[/b]
  • In-Van Delivery & Return ensures efficient material logistics. With IDR, the back office of a company can select which logistics company has access to the respective vehicle for the delivery and collection of materials. The market launch in Germany is scheduled for the first quarter of 2020.
  • The Onboard Logic Unit is an innovative control unit for the transportation sector: it connects the van to the cloud and enables third-party developers to develop complex software solutions and bring these into the vehicle quickly and easily - from CEP services to emergency services.
  • With VAN2SHARE, Mercedes-Benz Vans offers an innovative, digital sharing solution. It links drivers, vehicles and orders on one platform. In addition to keyless access to the vehicle, it enables an easy shared use of vehicles, easy claims management, and extensive data analysis to better manage the fleet for mobility and transport providers of all types, regardless of the vehicle brand.

Stuttgart. Mercedes-Benz Vans launched the future initiative adVANce three years ago. With it, the company consistently focuses on new, rapidly changing customer needs. “Increasing transport requirements must be covered faster, more efficient and more environmentally friendly in the future. In addition to our products, we have therefore created digital services for and with our customers and are constantly working on forward-looking innovations”, says Marcus Breitschwerdt, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. At an OpenHouse event in Stuttgart Wangen, Mercedes-Benz Vans has recently provided insights into current solutions and their further development. The brand with the star presented four selected digital solutions and their added value for different industries: Mercedes PRO, In-Van Delivery & Return (IDR), the so-called On Board Logic Unit (OLU) and VAN2SHARE.

Mercedes PRO: Success story of digital services for fleet customers

In June 2018, Mercedes PRO connect - the digital platform for connected fleets - was a highlight of the presentation of the third Mercedes-Benz Sprinter generation. Since then, fleets benefit from a steadily growing range of digital fleet services as well as from expanding to other models. The Mercedes PRO adapter now allows integration into the system world of Mercedes PRO even for older models.

Mercedes PRO is the Mercedes-Benz Vans brand for all services, solutions and digital offers for the daily business. As an offer for vehicle fleets, Mercedes PRO connect optimizes communication between fleet managers, vehicles and drivers. The networking solution allows online control of orders and vehicle information such as location, fuel level or maintenance intervals in a near real-time query. Their benefits range from minimized downtime through predictive maintenance and repair management to clearly presented data for business analysis. Fleet operators from small businesses to major customers benefit from the web-based service. In addition to the Sprinter, Mercedes PRO connect is now also available for Vito and eVito.

Björn Sack, Head of Connectivity and Digital Services Mercedes-Benz Vans: „Mercedes PRO connect is enjoying ever increasing popularity. In July 2019, almost every second Sprinter customer had activated one or more services. In four of our largest markets, we already look forward to a special digital affinity - here, Mercedes PRO is already being used by more than 2/3 of our new Sprinter customers. Due to the continuous expansion, we can now offer our customers 21 services in nine value-added packages.”

Mercedes PRO adapter: extension to existing vehicles

Brand new is the possibility of integrating the Mercedes PRO adapter into the system world of Mercedes PRO connect. It is the first compact hardware solution that also makes older fleet vehicles fit for the use of the Mercedes PRO connect services and thus for the innovative world of connectivity. The adapter, which was previously available as a retrofit solution with a separate vehicle management tool, has been available free of charge[1] for many existing Vito[2] and Sprinter[3] vehicles since October 2019 and is installed in the vehicle via the OBD II interface. It provides vehicle data for six free services via its built-in Bluetooth Interface and bridges the gap between the vehicle management tool and the Mercedes PRO Adapter App[4]. So the Mercedes PRO adapter brings a win-win situation for fleet managers and drivers. From now on, older and new vehicles can be managed in a vehicle management tool system and fleet managers can keep track of the entire fleet.

Specific packages for electric vehicle fleets

With the eVito, Mercedes PRO introduced a value-added package in March 2019, specifically developed for fleet operators who want to integrate electric vehicles into their fleet. „Digital eVan Management” provides important information about the state of charge of the electric fleet. For example, the charging status can be displayed at any time via a web-based vehicle management tool or the end of the charging process can be calculated in the Mercedes PRO connect app.

The „Remote Charge Management“[5] service allows the vehicle to be charged and tempered before the start of a journey. Thus, the battery charge required for the air conditioning can be reduced and a greater range can be achieved. As a second specific service for the eVito, Mercedes PRO connect offers the service „Intelligent Charging Management“, in which fleet managers load an electric vehicle fleet staggered and minimize the necessary electrical connection power. In addition, the intelligent infrastructure[6] stages the charging and pre-air conditioning of the vehicles according to the individual departure time settings.

Mercedes-Benz Van Uptime for maximum performance

Minimal downtime and maximum vehicle availability are the goals of the digital service function “Mercedes-Benz Van Uptime“. The intelligent networking of the transporter enables the evaluation and interpretation of technical vehicle data in real-time. For example, the service, which is currently available exclusively to the Sprinter, detects a clogged fuel filter or an imbalance in the front wheels and proactively makes specific recommendations to ensure the maximum availability of the van. Uptime also recognizes early maintenance requirements, which are automatically transmitted to the selected Mercedes-Benz Service Partner. This allows an appointment, which are tailored to the particular maintenance needs and the respective tour planning.

“Efficient driving style analysis“ now with “Driving Style Monitor“

An example of the extension of existing packages is the “driving style monitor“, which is currently included in the “Efficient driving style analysis“ package. It records average consumption as well as starting and acceleration behavior, coasting behavior and smooth driving. The driving-style-relevant data can move drivers to predictive driving or for optimization by appropriate training. Fleet managers benefit from fewer vehicle failures, reduced repair costs, less vehicle wear and possibly lower insurance rates.

“In-Van Delivery & Return“: Professional material logistics for companies with service fleets

Efficient material logistics is a success factor for many industries. It plays a crucial role especially for service technicians. Renate Reichenauer, Head of Digital Solutions Service & Crafts: „Our ambition at Future Transportation is to develop solutions that offer our customers real added value. In-Van Delivery & Return was therefore developed in close cooperation with service technicians and logisticians.“ IDR is currently in the field of beta testing for ten co-innovation customers. By the end of the year, 200 vehicles will be equipped with the technology. The market launch in Germany is scheduled for the first quarter of 2020. IDR dramatically simplifies material logistics and gives service technicians more time to spend on productive work for the customer.

Safe delivery in the van, fast return of material

On average, service technicians spend about 90 minutes a day ensuring the availability of all the materials, spare parts, and tools needed for upcoming jobs. IDR enables dispatchers and service technicians to easily transfer these activities to professional logisticians. They deliver the required parts for the following day keyless to the van at night. No longer needed material is picked up in this course, so it is not unnecessarily stored in the van. The overnight delivery and pickup saves the service technicians frequent trips to their home base. They can use the gained time for productive activities at the customer. In addition, process improvements can be implemented based on IDR. At the same time, the removal of interim storage facilities is made possible by delivering ordered goods directly to the technician’s van.

Transparency for service technicians, dispatcher and logisticians

With In-Van Delivery & Return, the back office of a company can select which logistics company has access to the respective van. In addition, they can restrict the authorization to open on the rear doors if necessary. Access is reliable and secure via a direct Bluetooth connection to the connectivity module in the vehicle, as not everywhere a stable internet connection can be ensured. When opening and closing the doors by the logistics service the technician and the dispatcher receive a notification. IDR benefits not only companies with service fleets but also logistics partners. The cost of procuring and managing a third key is eliminated. The digital key is integrated into the driver’s hand-held scanner, so no additional hardware is required. “For us, the solution means an optimization of the processes,“ says Benjamin Mäße, sales manager for the Eastern region and Deputy Operations Manager at Night Star Express. “We no longer need a physical key from our customers and can use IDR quickly and flexibly.“

GPS localization also eliminates lengthy searches if the van is not always parked in the same location. A significant reduction of round trips also leads to lower costs and shorter driving times. “If our drivers are traveling at night and the technician does not have a fixed parking space, our drivers often have to search for the vehicle and thus lose valuable time,“ continues Mäße, “with the GPS function and the connection to our scanning technology this problem is almost solved.“ Today, four logistics companies are already connected to the system and use IDR to further improve their own service.

Onboard Logic Unit - The IoT Platform for Automotive

With the Onboard Logic Unit, OLU for short, Mercedes-Benz Vans has developed an innovative control unit for the transport sector. The OLU offers the perfect interaction between hardware and software. It connects the vehicle to the cloud, allowing for maximum flexibility and linking various functions.

Multifunctional, modular hardware easy to program

The hardware of the OLU is a true Swiss penknife: consisting of the Connect Unit and the Compute Unit, it offers a variety of interfaces and connections. In this way, various services in the vehicle can be interconnected intelligently. This makes the OLU a central element in making the van an active part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Thanks to the OLU, for example, vehicle sensors, cameras or temperature sensors can be connected to work perfectly together. The accompanying software offers simple programming options. Third-party vendors will be able to develop apps and features for the OLU and offer them to other users for download.

Marco Kick, Head of IoT Solutions Future Transportation: “The OLU puts the cloud in the van and allows third-party developers to develop complex software solutions and bring these quickly and easily into the vehicle. It enables us to deliver completely new services for a variety of industries - by connecting existing services, creating an attractive ecosystem of software applications.“ Among other things, OLU enables transportation companies to optimize and expand existing business units and business areas. The combination of modern hardware and software together with modern sensor systems and data analysis ensures flexible use of the vehicle. Fleet managers and drivers benefit equally from the OLU interface.

Controlled opening for third party providers

The OLU simplifies the technical access and handling of live vehicle data without vehicle-specific or technical expertise. This makes it easier and faster for third-party developers to develop applications and implement them into the vehicle. In order to ensure the security of the systems and data, these are provided only for specific applications and cannot be used for other purposes. Connected to the on-board digital communication module, an over-the-air update functionality allows updates and enhancements on the fly. This is how the OLU makes a significant contribution to improved mobility and logistics processes and turns a van into a smart van.

From CEP to Rescue Service

Mercedes-Benz Vans is bundling a complete package with OLU according to the individual needs of different industries: for example, logistics companies can use the OLU vehicle sensors to link to a customer database, whereby the status of a delivery is automatically transmitted to the respective customer. This saves manual scanning of packages and thus time. Suppliers in the food industry can use the OLU to easily monitor and control the temperature of the cargo compartment. Correspondingly transmitted data support the tracking of the cold chain and the further process analysis. The OLU can also provide valuable services in medical care. The combination of vehicle and mission data on the health status of the patient optimizes the supply performance. Currently, the OLU is still in the extended pilot status and is used among other things in the context of the services VAN2SHARE and In-Van Delivery & Return.

VAN2SHARE - Fleet sharing solution with integrated driver and order management

With VAN2SHARE Mercedes-Benz Vans offers an innovative, digital sharing solution. It links drivers, vehicles and orders on one platform. In addition to keyless access to the vehicle, it enables an easy shared use of vehicles, easy claims management and extensive data analysis for better fleet management. The solution meets the needs of mobility and transport providers of all kinds and is independent of the vehicle brand.

Optimized personnel planning and vehicle delivery

VAN2SHARE enables seamless sharing of all fleet vehicles through networking. Dispatchers of passenger carriers, courier express parcel service providers and vehicle rental companies can use the platform-based solution to quickly and easily assign drivers to tasks and assign vehicles to them. Once registered in the system, the driver can start working immediately. The appropriate smartphone app directs him to the vehicle and serves to unlock it safely. A key handover, for example on the depot, is no longer necessary. This allows schedulers to plan more flexibly and agile making use of all drivers and fleet vehicles and to respond to the dynamic order volume at short notice. In addition, dispatchers always have the entire fleet in view. They can check the status of the vehicles at any time and make your maintenance management much more efficient. Thanks to GPS tracking, vehicle and fleet utilization can be evaluated and optimized. That increases the efficiency. VAN2SHARE also makes it possible to track the charge level and consumption of electric vehicles. Loading and driving times can be planned as best as possible with the help of the solution.

High customer value in various industries

Mercedes-Benz Vans, in cooperation with its customers, has evaluated the special benefits of VAN2SHARE for various industries. This serves the consistent further development of the platform. Dirk Reimelt, Head of Shared Mobility & Transportation: “More than 400 vehicles are currently being used by various customers in Europe and the USA and more than 1,600 drivers are already using the VAN2SHARE system successfully. Together with these customers, we continue to develop our solution and expand it with new features. We already have a five-digit number of shared vehicles in our sales pipeline today.“

For example, the on-demand ridesharing provider ViaVan is using VAN2SHARE for its on-demand public transit service. The joint venture founded by Mercedes-Benz Vans and the US startup Via is today active in London, Amsterdam and Berlin. In addition, the young company, together with the Berliner Verkehrsgesellschaft (BVG), operates the „BerlKönig“, an innovative on-demand public transit service as a supplement to public transport. Around 160 vehicles equipped with VAN2SHARE are available for customers in Berlin every day. Companies like ViaVan benefit from process optimization through VAN2SHARE. A particularly efficient shift planning, less effort in key management and the simplified documentation of any vehicle damage facilitate the daily operations. As a result, companies can save a lot of time and consequently increase their own revenues. The improved flow of information offers VAN2SHARE customers an additional competitive advantage.

A customer example from the logistics sector is the Berliner Tafel e.V.. The Berliner Tafel carries up to six tons of fresh food daily with 18 refrigerated vehicles within the city borders of Berlin. The non-profit association supports around 125,000 needy people each month and supplies around 300 different social institutions for this purpose. Not an easy task as the quantities and pick-up locations change daily. VAN2SHARE supports them in this logistical challenge with the provision of 16 connected vans and Courier Assist fleet management, which are therefore digitally networked and can be shared between drivers.

VAN2SHARE also enables its customers to create new business models: car rental companies, for example, can expand their offering with “counterless rental“, the rental of vehicles without key handling. The development of the solution is also progressing. For example, Mercedes-Benz Vans is currently working on extending the dispatching function as well as the functions of the API interface, which integrates VAN2SHARE directly into the customers’ existing IT infrastructure and thus can access almost all core functions. The so-called dashboard, where the fleet manager always has an overview of the fleet, is also being continually expanded.

Keyless access even without an active internet connection

In some regions, a stable Internet connection is not always guaranteed. The keyless access with VAN2SHARE therefore works even without a connection to the internet. This is made possible by a mixture of GSM and Bluetooth technology. This feature is particularly interesting for courier express parcel service providers and car rental companies and opens up possibilities to digitally manage demand-oriented and flexible even decentralized locations. Vehicles can therefore be parked outside their own depot and thus taken over by the driver or customer at points that are particularly convenient for them.

VAN2SHARE works according to the software as a service principle. Mercedes-Benz Vans operates the software and the necessary IT infrastructure, the customer uses them as a service. In the open-plan system, customers can take advantage of additional services, such as integrated claims management and geo-fencing, or the automatic assignment of vehicles to drivers. The solution can be easily retrofitted in existing vehicles. All you have to do is install a hardware component to make the connectivity. Fleets from new and older vehicles can be intelligently linked with VAN2SHARE and the entire fleet managed with one solution.

The services of VAN2SHARE are advantageous for all industries. Various mobility and transport providers benefit from the solution. Even fleets that have several vehicle brands.

[1] In Germany

[2] For Vito 639 since 11/2010, for Vito 447 since 10/2014 until 04/2019

[3] For Sprinter 906 since 04/2006

[4] It is not allowed to use the Mercedes PRO Adapter App while driving due to the risk of being distracted from traffic and jeopardize somebodies help. Please consider the legal requirements of the country you are located.

[5] Service only available in Germany

[6]To use the service, an appropriate charging infrastructure is necessary on site. You will find further information here:

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