Ford envisages vans and drones working together to solve ‘last mile’ deliveries
Vans and drones could work hand in hand to improve
mobility in urban areas in one example of Ford’s vision for the ‘City of
Self-driving vans could quickly and efficiently transport
everything from groceries, to urgently needed medical supplies on the ground,
with drones potentially able to take to the air for the final leg of the
journey to reach destinations inaccessible by car such as, high up in a tower
block - or where parking would be difficult, impractical, or unsafe.
The ‘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
The concept could be experienced through virtual reality
headsets at this week’s Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest gathering
for the mobile industry, in Barcelona, as part of Ford’s vision of the ‘City of
The experience showed dinner party preparations, with a
missing ingredient quickly ordered and delivered in time to add to the recipe.
As new data revealed that motorists in Europe’s cities
spent up to 91 hours sitting in congested traffic during 2016, the ‘Autolivery’
service is claimed to illustrate how new technologies could improve the lives
of consumers with smart connected homes, and help to pave the way to a more
“Ford has at its heart a culture of disruption and
innovation designed to come up with solutions that put people first to save
them time, money and aggravation, and also to make our cities easier to
navigate and better to live in,” said Ken Washington, vice president, research
and advanced engineering, Ford Motor Company.
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,
according to Ford.
‘The City of Tomorrow’ envisages overcoming mobility
challenges in urban environments, including gridlock and air pollution, to help
people move more easily today and in the future. Roads, said Ford, could be
converted into green space and parks, allowing for higher quality of life and
Ford intends to have a fully autonomous, Society of
Automotive Engineers’ level four-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 vehicle
offerings, to the point where they outnumber their petrol‑powered counterparts,
in the next 15 years.