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Published on March 3rd, 2017 | by James Ayre


Ford “Autolivery” — Self-Driving Van That Functions As Hub For Delivery Drones

March 3rd, 2017 by  

A new self-driving van concept was recently unveiled by Ford that’s intended to function as a hub for autonomous delivery drones. The concept is a bit fanciful, but I suppose that’s the case with many concept vehicles.

Something that probably is somewhat new, though, is the name for the concept — “Autolivery.” I don’t think that I’ve ever heard that word before.

The “promise” of delivery drones has been out there publicly for quite a while now, but I have to admit that I remain very skeptical of the approach/technology. Maybe it will make sense in some limited circumstances and environments, but how would it prove economical on the mass scale?

Ford provides more:

“The innovative ‘Autolivery’ concept, developed by a team of Ford employees for the company’s Last Mile Mobility Challenge, imagines electric self-driving vans used together with drones to pick up and drop off goods and packages in urban areas. The concept can be experienced through virtual reality headsets at Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry, in Barcelona, as part of Ford’s vision of the ‘City of Tomorrow’.

“The experience showed dinner party preparations, with a missing ingredient quickly ordered and delivered in time to add to the recipe. As new data reveals that motorists in Europe’s cities spent up to 91 hours sitting in congested traffic during 2016, the ‘Autolivery’ service illustrates how new technologies could improve the lives of consumers with smart connected homes, and help to pave the way to a more sustainable future. …

“The Autolivery idea, one of many submitted by Ford employees to tackle the last mile challenge, paid particular attention to the challenge of the “last 15 metres” in goods delivery. Widely considered the most challenging part of the goods delivery process to automate, many companies are working on how to solve the complexity of delivering packages the last 15 metres, or from kerb to door. The pressure to solve this challenge is expected to increase globally in coming years with GDP growth and a rise in local deliveries due to online sales.”

Does it make sense in terms of costs, though? Are the calculations that are being used to sell the idea truly taking all of the factors into consideration? Won’t people steal, take potshots at, and destroy the drones commonly enough that the cost savings angle won’t hold true? And that’s not even factoring in all of the problems that may arise from the drone technology itself (not just irritated and careless people).

Of course, there are also regulatory obstacles at this point.

“While the scene shown today is not yet possible, ‘Autolivery’ suggests how our ongoing mobility research could enrich our lives in a more sustainable ‘City of Tomorrow’,” said Ken Washington, vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering, Ford Motor Company.

“We are challenging ourselves to understand how people live, work and move in urban areas, to inform our research in mobility technologies and solutions.”

As regards Ford’s general plans and expectations regarding self-driving vehicles and “electrified” vehicles, Ford states: “Ford intends to have a fully autonomous, SAE level 4-capable vehicle for commercial application in mobility services such as ride sharing, ride hailing or package delivery fleets in 2021. It also expects continued growth in electrified vehicles offerings, to the point where they outnumber their petrol‑powered counterparts in the next 15 years. Shared modes of transportation will continue to gain popularity and connected communications between vehicles and infrastructure will grow.”


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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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