With technological advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and ever-increasing investment in the development of sensors and vision technologies, self-driving capabilities will fundamentally transform the way vehicles are assembled, operated, utilized, and serviced. From long-haul trucking to last-mile rovers, self-driving vehicles will upgrade logistics by unlocking new levels of safety, efficiency, and quality.
Key Developments & Implications
Although the year of widespread adoption remains elusive in the mid-term future, self-driving vehicles today have extended their reach beyond yards and warehouses. In the last two years they have slowly entered shared and public spaces including highways, sidewalks, and busy ports. Most players in the self-driving vehicle space are focused on cars and trucks.
However, some have identified opportunities to explore forklifts and swap bodies while others, emboldened by the COVID-19 crisis, have pursued last-mile delivery rovers. Currently, the technology is not perfect, and almost all solutions require a human to be on standby for legal, safety and operational reasons.
Driverless trucks have made significant headway, proving capable of significantly cutting delivery time and operational costs. In late 2019, a freight truck autonomously delivered butter over 4,500 km from California to Pennsylvania in 3 days in inclement weather, factoring in snow, a similar trip would normally take 9 days and a rushed direct order would take 5 days. More technology advances and tests will be needed, as well as the formation and standardization of rules and regulations, before real benefits can be realized in the logistics industry.
Indoor and outdoor facility autonomous vehicles are often split into two different categories: automated guided vehicles (AGVs) that usually follow fixed marked paths, wires, or embedded floor magnets and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that utilize advanced sensors and computer technology to navigate floorplans and obstacles. AGVs have existed for decades but, increasingly, supply chain leaders are tending to prefer smarter and more dynamic AMRs. AMRs are being more widely adopted as they are now offering a lower cost and favorable business models.
Last-mile delivery rovers have been used in a recent surge of trials on city sidewalks in the last two years, for good reason. Challenges are still being overcome; most operations are experimental and often subject to strict government regulations, whether just testing semi-autonomous technology or attempting to fully integrate it into the business model.
Applications for Self-driving Vehicles That Are Discussed in the Report Include:
- Warehousing operations
- Outdoor logistics operations
- Line haul transportation
- Last-mile delivery
Talk to an Expert
Innovation Project Manager
DHL Innovation Center, Troisdorf
Jordan Toy is an Innovation Project Manager. He merges his technical background with his passions for sustainability and human-centered design to drive projects from ideas to real-world pilots within logistics operations. His interests are multifaceted and span from robotics to quantum computing and from green energy to the future of work.
Jordan has over 6 years of experience in the logistics, transportation and civil engineering industries. He is based in the DHL Innovation Center in Troisdorf, Germany.