Ben Thomas

Ben Thomas

Director, National Valuation

t: +44 207 182 2663

Judy Zhu

Judy Zhu

Associate Director, National Valuation

t: +44 207 182 2683

In the last blog post, we looked at the current development of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology. In this post, we are going to explore the potential ways AVs could operate in the future and the benefits.


Possible stages of AV adoption in logistics

When we talk about an autonomous vehicle, the first impression is usually a self-driving car, but autonomous vehicles include self-driving trucks, vans, cars, robots, etc. Autonomous vehicles can be used on as well as off road, and even in warehouses and construction sites.

There are many players in this field at moment and we have briefly summarised the companies which are developing autonomous trucks and their latest technology.

AV Stages

Stage 0 – This is today, where all driving and deliveries are done by humans.

Stage 1 – Next, truck drivers will operate semi-autonomous cabs. Last-mile driving and delivery will still be carried out by a human. As mentioned in the last post, autonomous trucks are easier to adapt than other vehicles because driving on motorways is considered less complicated than urban streets.

The immediate benefit of using an AV at this stage is that truck driving hours could be extended. With motorway driving performed by an AV, truck drivers are only required in complicated driving situations. Therefore, with time for drivers to rest on the motorway, driving hours could be extended.

Stage 2 – At Stage 2, autonomous trucks operate independently. Last-mile drivers will operate semi-autonomous vehicles and deliver manually.

At this stage, big-bulk goods transport from airport, ports, national/regional distribution centres by trucks can be performed 24/7. The benefit is that motorway traffic in the day could be reduced, since trucks can carry out deliveries during night hours.

Then, by using semi-autonomous vehicles for last-mile delivery, van drivers can provide better customer service. With vans doing the bulk of the driving, the main job for humans will shift to delivery, and they can spend their time during the journey communicating with customers or other team members.

Stage 3 – Finally, all vehicles used in the delivery process are autonomous. Even delivery to doors could be performed by robots or drones.

The benefit of using an AV at this stage is that everything could be transported and delivered 24/7, regardless of size or type. 24-hour last-mile delivery can include non-food packages, meal orders, grocery and anything else.


Other possibilities

In the future, vehicles could be mixed-use and flexible.

Mixed-use vehicles

In the future, we may have mixed-use vehicles. Passengers and delivery orders could travel in the same vehicle. The travel route for passengers will be spontaneous and customised to their destinations. On the same route, drones will take off and deliver orders when approaching near the delivery destinations. On top of this, if the vehicles are autonomous, the transportation service can run 24/7.

With this model, transportation capacity can be maximised, so the fuel consumption and the damage to environment can be minimised. On the other hand, for passengers and delivery customers, they can enjoy faster travel and faster delivery.

Indeed, each compartment could be made flexible, depending on requirements.

Other Benefits

Once all the vehicles in the logistics process are autonomous, the distribution and delivery will be much more efficient. AVs will reduce the waiting time for customers to receive orders and will provide the flexibility to receive orders at preferred timing. Together with the use of blockchain, robotics and AI, AVs can make the journey of goods from manufacturers to customers fully autonomous.

If all the vehicles on the road are autonomous and follow the orders from a central hub, traffic lights will be redundant and traffic congestion will be reduced. The central hub will give driving/braking orders to vehicles, so overall traffic can run in the most efficient order, making traffic lights unnecessary. Since all the vehicles would be controlled by the same central hub, vehicles can accelerate and brake at the same time, which saves time between vehicles as they start moving.

AVs can also potentially reduce human mistakes. With all the possible driving scenarios being built in the central database and being updated with live data collected from vehicles in the network, the central database will be much more knowledgeable than any individual human driver.


Autonomous vehicles will probably be adopted into the logistics network over a period of time in phased stages. At each stage, the adoption will bring more benefits than the last and the maximum impact of these benefits will be seen when the entire transport network is automated.

But it’s not all plain sailing and in the next post, we will look at the potential risk and impact of AVs on the logistics industry.

If you are interested in more details of this report or our other logistics reports, please contact Ben Thomas, Director of CBRE National Valuation – Logistics & Distribution, or Judy Zhu, Associate Director of CBRE National Valuation.

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