Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

DHL predicts move to autonomous vehicles in logistics sector

Steve Rogerson
December 17, 2014
Autonomous vehicles could plays a significant role in the logistics industry according to a report from logistics giant DHL. The report – ‘Self-Driving Vehicles in Logistics’ – highlights the key elements and significant potential of autonomous technologies in the logistic industry.

As a first step in the self-driving journey, the report contains various best-practice applications from different industries and examines concrete use cases of self-driving vehicles across the entire logistics value chain. Applications for self-driving vehicles that are discussed in the report include: autonomous transport and assisted picking in warehouses; autonomous outdoor logistics such as yard, harbour and airport operations; assisted highway trucking and convoying in line-haul transportation; and last-kilometre delivery.

“Some warehouse operations have been using self-driving vehicles to some extent for years, but making driving in logistics more and more autonomous will change the logistics sector dramatically,” said Markus Kückelhaus, director of DHL Trend Research. “Moving onto public roads is the next evolutionary step. With its history in deploying self-driving solutions in controlled environments, the logistics industry is in a prime position to further shape the future of self-driving vehicles. Together with partners and customers, DHL can take a leading role on this path.”

Self-driving vehicles can provide a wide range of benefits including improved road safety, greater fuel efficiency and reduced environmental impact. However, as the trend report explains, autonomous technologies still have some way to go before reaching full maturity. Considerable catching up is also required regarding regulations, public acceptance and issues of liability. Despite these barriers, some compelling use cases have already emerged, clearly indicating that many organisations are willing to develop and deploy self-driving technologies.

For public highways and urban streets, the report anticipates: in the near future, enhancements to existing driver-assistance functions; next, the introduction of autonomous driving in specific situations such as on congested highways; and, further into the future, fully autonomous truck convoys on highways round the clock.

“There is no doubt that autonomous driving will change the world of logistics,” said Matthias Heutger, senior vice president at DHL. “DHL is already applying many solutions for autonomous logistics in warehouse operations and we see ourselves in a prime position to further drive the trend of self-driving vehicles in our industry.”