Reflections on the IAA

The biennial IAA commercial vehicle show in Hannover, Germany is the less glamorous sister of the giant Frankfurt car show. This year, however, the show has been notable for the number of concepts on display. Here are some of our favourites:

Ford Otosan F-Vision concept

A handsome and well-resolved styling exercise, the F-Vision hints at the appearance of the next generation of Ford trucks – it’s described as being battery-powered and equipped with level 4 autonomous driving, meaning it could in theory drive itself within a geofenced metropolitan area.

Volvo Vera

Perhaps just as interesting for the questions it raises as the answers it provides, this cabless, autonomous, electric tractor unit is not intended for long-haul journeys but for use in restricted areas such as ports or logistics centres, which goes some way to excusing the lack of an aero solution for the front end of the containers it would tow. It would be great to see an evolution of this that took into account how Vera could interact with pedestrians and co-workers – a visual interface of some sort?

Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo

There’s a lot to like about this latest VW concept. It’s a neat and tidy reinterpretation of the VW minibus, showcasing a mobile workshop and promising a smart-sounding platform that can be configured with different battery size packs for different uses. Volkswagen have shown a dizzying number of electric vehicle concepts over the last couple of years, presumably as a kind of public act of contrition for the emissions scandal that they have been embroiled in. It would be good to see one finally go into production.

Mercedes Benz Vision Urbanetic

If the ID Buzz Cargo was a considered re-working of a classic, the Vision Urbanetic flies boldly in the face of everything that you thought you knew about how a Three-Pointed Star-car should look. Its aesthetics have more in common with a Nike sneaker than an S-class but don’t let the looks distract from the compelling concept behind the swooping forms and blue LED light. The Urbanetic features a ‘skateboard’-style chassis, onto which, different bodies can be coupled, allowing it to transport people or goods. This, they say, would allow vehicles to be in use for a greater percentage of their life, leading potentially, to more efficient public transport and logistical systems. It’s an idea that has been explored by others such as Rinspeed with the Snap concept and Toyota with the e-Pallete in the past and suggests that the biggest danger of autonomous vehicles is not being run over but losing your job to one.

What’s interesting about the IAA this year is that the specific nature of many vehicles here makes them much easier to make autonomous than passenger cars, meaning that the first self-driving cars that many of us meet may well be vans or trucks. Adieu, white van man?