With terrain complicated by traffic snarls and unpredictable pedestrians, final-mile delivery is often an afterthought in the discussion of autonomous trucks.
Through a partnership between Otto and Anheuser-Busch in 2016, the beer-maker became the the first company to use autonomous technology “exit-to-exit” for commercial delivery, leaving a human driver to navigate the load through surface streets.
Recently, Burlingame, Calif.-based udelv made the world’s first public road test delivery on a 2.5-mile loop, complete with traffic lights, lane changes, unsignalized left turns and two delivery stops from Draeger’s Market in San Mateo. In compliance with California regulations, the vehicle was supervised by a safety driver and in test mode.
“Deliveries are the perfect first application for autonomous vehicles,” says udelv CEO Daniel Laury. “This is a historic revolution in transportation. We are reinventing deliveries. [Management consulting firm] McKinsey estimates that 80 percent of all package deliveries will be autonomous in the next decade.”
udelv’s distinctive orange fully electric vehicle features 18 secure cargo compartments with automatic doors. In its current configuration, Laury says the vehicle can drive for up to 60 miles per cycle with up to 700 pounds of cargo.
Each door uses a cloud-base technology that is shared between the vehicle, a customers’ iOS device and merchants.
“Customers simply open the locker with a press of a button on their mobile device and the vehicle heads on its way to the next delivery or back to the store,” Laury says.
To complement its autonomous driving technology and ensure reliability of the service, udelv also created an ultra-low latency teleoperations system to monitor and control the vehicles remotely and allow for overrides and human-assisted guidance in unique situations.
Laury says his company anticipates its new vehicle will reduce the cost of local deliveries, add flexibility in delivery windows and significantly reduce emissions.