Autonomous delivery is on the threshold of exploding and creating multiple opportunities and challenges for consumers and businesses alike.
Not long ago, it was hard to fathom that self-driving vehicles would transform the way people move themselves. Yet, as we described in our Islands of Autonomy paper, the concept is poised to become a reality in major metro areas around the world.
But the move from driving to driven is only half of the story. The other half is moving goods to people with autonomous vehicles. We believe that future will bring yet another revolutionary change in consumer behavior and transform the infrastructure of our cities even more.
It’s easy to picture this future when you consider the physical cloud, which is fully capable of coupling the tremendous capacities of computers and artificial intelligence with robotics to invent an entire delivery ecosystem.
It receives orders for goods, communicates those orders for fulfillment, and delivers them via autonomous vehicles that are just starting to be imagined and will potentially number in the millions. The equivalent of server farms on the Internet will be strategically located smart warehouses, fully automated spaces where goods are assembled, stored, and loaded onto autonomous delivery vehicles by robots. The routes and networks for delivery on the ground will change to meet these needs, and drone-capable air routes will be established.
Now, think about the far-reaching impacts of autonomous delivery:
· There will be an explosion in same-hour delivery
· The cost of each delivery could plummet to as low as 40 cents, because human drivers won’t need to be paid or insured
· Companies in the automotive and transportation industries will increasingly jump on the bandwagon to develop specialized autonomous delivery vehicles; these will become increasingly less expensive to manufacture
· Public infrastructure, such as sidewalks, parking zones, and driving lanes will change to accommodate the different types of delivery vehicles
· Private infrastructure will change with the emergence of delivery centers, charging stations, and lockboxes
· A new invisible infrastructure will emerge, consisting of powerful computing and networking to connect the delivery ecosystem
· Brick-and-mortar retail businesses will need to remake themselves, and strategic, visionary mom-and-pop shops will have the potential to effectively compete with retail behemoths.
The impending autonomous delivery revolution is on the threshold of creating a multitude of opportunities not only for forward-looking businesses but for also entire industries. But it’s not all rosy for consumers. Why? Because it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that urban dwellers will have to become well-versed in the art of dodging delivery robots on their sidewalks and streets within five years.
To learn more about autonomous delivery, please listen to our podcast and read our white paper, Autonomy delivers: An oncoming revolution in the movement of goods.
1 Retail Sales Index, U.K. Office for National Statistics
2 Retail E-Commerce Sales Report, U.S. Census Bureau