Big cities have a lot to offer – and a lot to do. Traffic chaos, overcrowding and carbon emissions are just a few of the challenges facing dense inner cities. Most city centres are not suitable for last-mile deliveries: the streets are too narrow, the transport concept optimised for passenger transport, the laws too rigid. The focus is on the well-being of the people who live in the cities. But that also includes the efficient provision of food, medication and everything offered by e-commerce. Most city-dwellers barely notice the congestion, commotion, foul air and foul moods that result from these activities. But we do.
This is why we’re committed to the efficient yet environmentally sound supply of urban centres – a field known as city logistics. It represents a challenge for us logistics professionals and is one of our core concerns. We have been advancing the cause of sustainable drive technology and forward-looking mobility concepts, and everything that supports our overarching environmental objectives, for years now. One of the milestones along the way has been our latest collaboration with the American technology company Udelv. In the summer of 2021, we reserved five of Udelv’s autonomous electric vehicles. Further details are available in this press release (only available in German, French and Italian).
The Silicon Valley start-up has set itself ambitious goals. It aims to improve people’s lives, traffic safety and sustainability in field of delivery. Udelv is revolutionising the logistics sector with autonomous vehicles for last-mile delivery; i.e. to the front door or post office box. Udelv was founded in California by Daniel Laury and Akshat Patel in 2017, with its first successful autonomous delivery on public roads in 2018. Since then, Udelv has carried out tens of thousands of autonomous shipments annually for businesses in California, Arizona and Texas. The ambitious young company aims to bring more than 35,000 autonomous electric delivery vehicles to the market by 2028.
The challenges of autonomous driving of the type carried out by driverless taxis are enormous. And autonomous delivery has additional hurdles, such as automated loading and unloading of parcels. To tackle this Herculean technological challenge, Udelv joined forces with the Israeli Intel subsidiary Mobileye. Mobileye leverages big data knowledge from millions of cameras used in conventional lane assist, laser and radar systems. Mobileye combines this knowledge with real-time data collected by the autonomous vehicle itself. Finally, these insights are enriched with the assumptions and decisions made by people in traffic situations. From this flood of data, the artificial intelligence calculates digital maps precisely to the centimetre, plus a wealth of rules and instructions that the autonomous vehicle must fulfil in order to properly handle or avoid a given traffic situation. Udelv delivery vehicles are also equipped with automated loading and unloading functions or can be transferred to other modes of transport as complete containers.
Thanks to AI, Udelv’s electric delivery vehicles are equipped with numerous data-based decision-making capabilities that go far beyond the ability of a person. This greatly enhances the safety of the vehicles in road traffic. As the AI processors are continuously learning, the vehicle adds further insights to its knowledge base with every metre driven, and also benefits from the live experiences of other vehicles on the road at the same time. Learn more about the Mobileye technology in this video.
Beyond safety, other attractive advantages of autonomous delivery are also worth a look. Thanks to low-emission electric drive technology, Udelv vehicles are ideal for inner cities with high concentrations of tailpipe emissions and particulate matter. They are less error-prone than driver-controlled services, more environmentally friendly and expand a provider’s service capacity by several hours per vehicle, thereby offering a number of efficiency gains. This means faster and more environmentally friendly delivery for parcel recipients. From a macroeconomic viewpoint, autonomous delivery closes the circle of demanding multimodal and sustainable city logistics.
People are and will remain central and irreplaceable even with autonomous delivery. That applies, of course, to our customers, for whom we are investing in sustainability technology. But it applies above all to our employees, whose work we assist with smart technology and who we spare the relentless stress of urban traffic jams and constant time pressure. Instead, we deploy our people in rural areas, so that we can continue to deliver parcels to the remotest areas of Switzerland with our customary friendliness. This enables us to shape our first-class parcel service in an even more appealing way and continue to attract the best drivers for Planzer Parcel.
Autonomous electric delivery vehicles will soon be put to use on designated shuttle corridors in Swiss cities. Find out here and on our other digital channels whether our vision of autonomous delivery can be turned into a sustainable reality. Stay the course – we will too.