Could automated road transportation drive the logistics industry forward?

28th July 2017 07:58

In recent years, consumer demand for delivered goods has increased dramatically. A report carried out by PWC in 2016 states that individual and industrial consumers are demanding products faster with easier accessibility, as well as the availability of products at a lower cost. Therefore, key players within the warehousing and logistics industry have had to find innovative ways to increase their efficiency in order to supply consumer’s demands.

There have been a large number of advancements in technology over the past few years within the industry, including the increased use of voice-controlled warehouse management (a product supplied by Minster Logistics). However, one proposed system which could be fully introduced in the future is the use of self-driving delivery trucks on roads. 

There have been many ways in which driverless vehicles have been utilised in the industry at present, including warehousing operations. However, trucks on the roads have not yet been fully introduced. These trucks are designed to imitate human truckers in order to navigate themselves, as well as assess road conditions like any other human driver would do. They are able to communicate with one another over a ‘cloud’ system and all vehicles can share what they have learnt in order to develop their driving skills and improve efficiency.

There are a number of benefits for the use of automated trucks on the roads. Carrie Wood, the Chief Marketing Officer for Lease Ref explained, “driverless trucks will streamline the distribution channel” as “truck drivers need sleep” and “driverless trucks do not”. In theory, PWC explains that automated vehicles will reduce human workforce and increase efficiency in the delivery process in the long term, therefore providing the ability to pass cost reduction onto consumers. Amazon is also considering implementing the technology.

However, these vehicles are currently not fully driverless. Ocado, a well-known online grocer, has recently test driven a ‘driverless’ vehicle on the roads of London. It has cost the company £8 million as a part of a larger scale project into driverless innovations. The pod-like vehicle navigated itself through the streets, with two delivery men behind the wheel in case of any emergency. According to a report by the BBC, the vehicle reached speeds of 5mph throughout the pedestrianised streets of London.

With current regulations and safety requirements, it could be some time before we witness larger trucks on the road utilising this technology. With this in mind, the efficiency of these vehicles could be questioned for the time being. For the somewhat near future, workers will still have to be employed to sit behind the wheel of the vehicle, whilst slow speed can drastically decrease delivery times for products.

Until further research has been carried out and safety regulations have been developed, the extent to which these self-driving trucks are efficient enough for large-scale use cannot be fully certain. The driverless vehicles may not be seen on the streets any time in the near future, but would you trust these vehicles as a way of driving forward the logistics industry?

 

Sources:

http://www.pwc.com/sg/en/publications/assets/future-of-the-logistics-industry.pdf

https://www.strategyand.pwc.com/trend/2017-commercial-transport-trends

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40421100

http://www.futureofeverything.io/2017/04/27/future-warehousing/

http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2017/04/24/amazon-wants-to-use-self-driving-vehicles.html

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