Initially drones were the most popular topic for postal service providers. The idea to use drones for parcel delivery already came up a few years ago. Amazon, Google, DHL and the Swiss Post are having a try at integrating UAVs into package transportation. In the Swiss town Lugano drones are a fixed part of the city transporting drugs in regular operation. Delivery bots are also being tested in Germany. Some US states even have established laws implying the use of delivery bots.
Autonomous street scooters
But lately postal services shifted their focus more towards autonomous driving. DHL first focused on electric mobility and developed its own electric delivery van instead of buying some. The result is called StreetScooter and forms the basis for an autonomous delivery truck that has been developed in cooperation with IT specialist Nvidia and ZF Friedrichshafen. The prototype will be used for last mile delivery.
The concept was introduced at Nvidia’s developer conference GTC. Sensors count 2 Lidar systems, a radar sensor and 6 cameras. Data is calculated by the ZF ProAI system while the controls are handled by the Nvidia PX Drive. The first fleet will be ready in 2018 but for testing purposes only.
Autonomous postal service in the USA
The US postal service is working on a similar concept and has being collaborating with the University of Michigan – like automotive OEMs such as Ford do. UM supports the post with the development of a prototype that shall be ready by the end of 2017. The vehicle name tells a lot about the intention behind the project: “Autonomous Rural Delivery Vehicle”.
In practice the delivery van will be semi-autonomous and packed with features for highest possible efficiency. However it’s still not clear if the Autonomous Rural Delivery Vehicle will ever go into mass production.
About the author:
David Fluhr is journalist and owner of the digital magazine “Autonomes Fahren & Co”. He is reporting regularly about trends and technologies in the fields Autonomous Driving, HMI, Telematics and Robotics. Link to his site: http://www.autonomes-fahren.de