That's when the real fun begins. On the roof of each delivery van are two autonomous aerial drones locked into landing stations. When the van approaches the final leg of a delivery, the mechanized system feeds the package up and through the roof and into the belly of the drone.
RELATED: Street Lamps Could Serve as Drone Docking Stations
The drone then takes off and delivers the package to its final location. In the case of business deliveries in urban environments, the drone could fly up to a designated landing point on the office building roof.
Or it could go the other way: A drone is dispatched from a delivery center, then flies to the van and deposits the package down through the roof. Beacons mounted in the van's roof guide the drone in for a precise landing, even if the van is in motion. The driver then goes to the final location - your home, say - and hands off the package the old-school way.
Matternet's current delivery drone model, the M2, can load and drop off packages up to 4.4 pounds with no human interaction required. Flight range is up to 12 miles on a single battery charge, and the drone can swap in fresh batteries on its own from the van's docking platform.
RELATED: U.S. Skies Now Open for Commercial Drones
According to the designers, the M2 drone has full collision-avoidance and fail-safe systems onboard, including a kill switch and parachute for worst-case scenarios. The plan is to have a fully functioning drone delivery system that can work in both rural and urban areas. Eventually, the Vision Van won't need a driver, either, as automated vehicle tech ramps up.
It's all pretty space age, and you'll want to check out the demo video below to get a full sense of Mercedes' " Vans and Drones" sci-fi mission. The company hasn't established any definite time line for the system - it's safe to assume that the word "years" is involved - and competing drone systems are in development. But it's fun to see at least one company's vision projected out in detail like this.