The average automaker’s target market has always been the private consumer. So, naturally, the assumption has always been that the self-driving car would cross the finish line looking like a robo-taxi. Now McKinsey & Co. predicts the future of autonomous driving technology may come in the guise of an automated delivery vehicle, with over 80% of all deliveries becoming unmanned in the next decade.
This predictably commercial shift in focus can be explained when considering Amazon.com’s more than 5 billion deliveries affected last year. And that’s only to its Prime members. As we know, the modern consumer prefers to do their shopping online and have their purchases delivered to their door. It is a niche industry worth veritable billions.
But this is where the physics hit a snag. The business model has a ‘last-50-feet’ delivery problem. A car (however intelligent) cannot walk up your garden path (dodging your dog and your kid’s skateboard) and ring your doorbell. Eventually, off course, this gap might be bridged by hover drones or bomb squad-looking robots. But for now it means we’ll still have to run out to the curb in our curlers and bunny slippers to claim our packages.
Nevertheless, the in’s and out’s of the suggested delivery process are fascinating. A consumer specifies a window wherein delivery may be affected and an automated delivery vehicle is dispatched. As it nears its destination, the consumer is notified of its proximity and again at arrival. The consumer must then approach and present a barcode on their phone, or key in an emailed combination, to retrieve their package.
The appearance and architecture of these vehicles are points of intense debate. The idea of ‘an Amazon locker on wheels’ is a popular one. But the final form will no doubt depend on function. After all, if the articles being delivered are hot pizzas, speed might be a more important consideration than bulk.
In contrast, several large automakers (and some software magnates and postal subsidiaries) have already begun experimenting with automated land trains / big-rig trucks. Although still some years from practical (and legal) implementation, this venture promises to reduce logistical costs by up to 70% by simply eliminating the human element.
Renault spectacularly showcased its robo-taxi solution (the EZ-GO concept) at the last Geneva Motor Show. The Renault-Nissan coalition now stands to introduce its autonomous delivery vision at this year’s Hannover Motor Show in September. For the rest of us, the challenge will be not to drive ourselves to distraction during the long wait.
It this seems like a long time to go without your Renault-high, book a test drive today and watch us deliver.