A trend report recently published by DHL outlines the potential of autonomous technologies in transportation and logistics, and that the industry is well suited to take advantage of such technologies.
The report, titled "Self-Driving Vehicles in Logistics," notes that autonomous technologies are already deployed in the military and in a number of industries, citing the Mars Rover Curiosity as an example of existing autonomous technologies. In addition, automakers already offer technologies such as parking assist systems, which take some control of the vehicle away from the driver, and virtually all are working with self-driving prototypes, not to mention the Google car.
Warehouses have also been using these technologies, including autonomous vehicles that move around warehouses carrying all kinds of items. But these warehouse are not self-driving – they lack the navigation and analysis capabilities to move around objects. Instead, they just stop when they encounter an obstacle. Advanced vision and other technologies, however, could result in warehouse vehicles that can maneuver around objects and people, the report states, performing a number of tasks.
Moving such vehicles outside of the warehouse and into public spaces, presents a greater challenge, according to the report.
The authors see their use first in truck yards, ports or other cargo-related areas. Self-driving vehicles could provide benefits and perform all types of yard duties in these controlled environments.
On the highway, some driver assistance systems are now available for trucking, such as collision avoidance and lane departure warning systems that alert drivers if they are following too close. Some of these systems depower the engine and apply the brakes if the driver does not react promptly. Blind-side cameras alert drivers to obstacles they can’t see.
Moving further into the future, the report says trucking may use technologies in assisted highway trucking, line-haul convoying and last-mile delivery.
The report also argues that self-driving vehicles can improve road safety and achieve greater fuel efficiency.
There are a number of challenges before self-driving vehicles are dropping off packages, the report concludes, such as regulations, public acceptance and liability issues.