Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Mercedes-Benz uses AI to sense cargo in delivery vans

Steve Rogerson
October 16, 2018

Mercedes-Benz Vans has developed an artificially intelligent cargo sensor system to address the growing demands of ecommerce and last-kilometre deliveries.
This proof of concept, it says, is part of its transformation into a provider of holistic transportation with the help of digital products.
The growing popularity of ecommerce has led to high revenues for delivery service providers but has also put strain on their ability to manage this increase of packages and deliver them under tight deadlines. To meet these challenges for its commercial van users, Mercedes-Benz Vans is developing in-vehicle cargo systems powered by AI and machine learning. These technologies can automate cargo management, decrease package handling and improve delivery times, allowing logistics companies to deliver more packages with greater speed, transparency and efficiency.
The Coros cargo recognition and organisation system has been installed in the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with an array of cameras that automatically scan and track packages as they enter and exit the vehicle. Leveraging computer vision and AI, Coros identifies, scans and records packages as they are brought into the vehicle and recommends the optimal loading position based on the package's size and final destination.
Coros continuously monitors the cargo space throughout a driver's route and tracks any changes to a package's location if a sharp turn or road bump causes the cargo to shift, or if the driver reorganises the cargo during the day.
At each stop, the system automatically looks up the customer's order and directs the driver to that customer's packages via LEDs installed on shelves and throughout the cargo space. It also reduces time spent by the driver searching for the right packages at each customer stop, enabling faster and more reliable deliveries.
The system provides additional benefits through real-time status updates for fleet managers and customers on a driver's progress and the status of individual packages, reducing potential customer frustration regarding uncertain delivery times. These data also provide insight into a fleet's performance, allowing fleet managers and dispatchers to forecast delays, optimise process operations and address areas of concern.
At home in a garage in Menlo Park, California, the future transportation team of Mercedes-Benz Vans uses user-centred design and rapid prototyping to design products. Its interdisciplinary team combines Mercedes-Benz's expertise in the commercial vehicle sector with fresh perspectives from a variety of industries. Leveraging the Silicon Valley network, the team explores ventures and opportunities in the changing transportation ecosystem, and considers how emerging technologies will shape the future landscape of logistics and mobility.