Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Ford demonstrates autonomous delivery concept at MWC

Steve Rogerson
February 28, 2017

Ford has developed autonomous vehicles and drones that could work hand-in-hand to transform city deliveries. The Autolivery service is being demonstrated this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Ford is showing a fully autonomous, SAE level four-capable vehicle for commercial application in mobility services such as ride sharing, ride hailing or package delivery fleets in 2021.
For more than half a century, vans have played a key role in deliveries. Drones are a modern phenomenon. But, the two could work hand in hand to improve mobility in urban areas in one example of Ford’s vision for the city of tomorrow.
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-kilometre mobility challenge, imagines electric self-driving vans used together with drones to pick up and drop off goods and packages in urban areas. The concept can be experienced through virtual reality headsets at Mobile World Congress.
The experience showed dinner party preparations, with a missing ingredient quickly ordered and delivered in time to add to the recipe. As new data reveal that motorists in Europe’s cities spent up to 91 hours sitting in congested traffic during 2016, the Autolivery service illustrates how technologies could improve the lives of consumers with smart connected homes and help pave the way to a more sustainable future.
“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 at Ford Motor.
The Autolivery idea, one of many submitted by Ford employees to tackle the last kilometre challenge, paid particular attention to 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 problem of delivering packages in the last 15 metres, or from kerb to door. The pressure to solve this is expected to increase globally in coming years with GDP growth and a rise in local deliveries due to online sales.
“While the scene shown today is not yet possible, Autolivery suggests how our on-going mobility research could enrich our lives in a more sustainable city of tomorrow,” said Washington.
The city of tomorrow concept envisages overcoming mobility challenges in urban environments, including gridlock and air pollution, to help people move more easily today and in the future. Roads could be converted into green space and parks, allowing for higher quality of life and healthier communities. The company regularly invites employees, entrepreneurs and start-ups to develop innovations through hackathons and challenges. Autolivery was developed by Shanghai-based Ford designers Euishik Bang, James Kuo and Chelsia Lau.
“It’s all about making life in the city easier,” said Bang. “The possibility of harnessing autonomous and electric vehicle technology with drones to quickly and easily send and deliver parcels, could help to make life better for everyone.”
Ford intends to have a fully autonomous, SAE level four-capable vehicle for commercial application in mobility services such as ride sharing, ride hailing or package delivery fleets by 2021. It also expects continued growth in electrified vehicle offerings to the point where they outnumber their petrol-powered counterparts within the next 15 years.
“We are challenging ourselves to understand how people live, work and move in urban areas, to inform our research in mobility technologies,” Washington said.