#11 Future of Autonomous Vehicles – “Future of Logistics” Series

#11 Future of Autonomous Vehicles – “Future of Logistics” Series

Ben Thomas

Ben Thomas

Director, National Valuation

t: +44 207 182 2663 Ben.Thomas@cbre.com

Judy Zhu

Judy Zhu

Associate Director, National Valuation

t: +44 207 182 2683 Judy.Zhu@cbre.com

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.

Summary

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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#10 Driving into the Era of Autonomous Vehicles – “Future of Logistics” Series

#10 Driving into the Era of Autonomous Vehicles – “Future of Logistics” Series

Ben Thomas

Ben Thomas

Director, National Valuation

t: +44 207 182 2663 Ben.Thomas@cbre.com

Judy Zhu

Judy Zhu

Associate Director, National Valuation

t: +44 207 182 2683 Judy.Zhu@cbre.com

In the last few posts, we covered the topic of Drones. From this post onward, we are going to have a look at the use of autonomous vehicles in the logistics industry. In this first post, we will focus on the current development before we move on to the future outlook in the later posts.

 

Autonomous vehicles on the road

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.

 

Trucks

Car manufacturers

For car manufacturers, developing autonomous vehicle is a natural progression. They have first mover advantage, and should have more know-how and existing resources than new entrants into the automobile industry.

In January 2011, Volvo participated in the SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project, in which truck platooning technology was firstly demonstrated. Truck platooning is where a line of trucks automatically follow a lead truck which is driven by a human driver. This technology is an early initiative paving the way for today’s autonomous vehicle.

Platooning

Platooning

In September 2018, Volvo introduced the autonomous and electric concept vehicle – Vera. Other than being autonomous and electric, Vera can connect with others of its kind. Because of this connectivity, Vera is ideally suited to logistics areas, such as ports, factories and logistics parks, where all the autonomous vehicles in the same place can be controlled centrally.

Connectivity

Connectivity

In July 2014, Daimler announced the “Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025” plan. The latest update on this plan is the launch of the new semi-autonomous Actros truck in September 2018. These are installed with Active Drive Assist technology, which can operate automatic braking, accelerating and steering. This technology “paves the way to automated driving”.

In November 2017, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, unveiled its electric semi-autonomous truck prototype – Tesla Semi, having first mentioned the concept in the Tesla 2016 Master Plan. Compared to the autonomous vehicles by other manufacturers, Tesla claims “Semi is the safest, most comfortable truck ever” thanks to its advanced software and hardware design.

Tech companies

A lot of tech companies have also joined the game, since nobody wants to miss out on this opportunity. The competition of designing autonomous vehicles should also drive improvement in software development.

In August 2016 Uber acquired Otto, the tech start-up focuses on autonomous long-haul trucks. Otto set the record of the longest continuous autonomous truck journey (212 km) from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins in October 2016 (Embark is the latest record holder). This is one of the earliest initiatives of tech companies in developing autonomous trucks. However, this autonomous truck project was cancelled in July 2018, with an aim to focus the resources on developing autonomous cars, before it could be utilised in the Uber Freight business.

Other tech companies like Nvidia and Baidu have also entered this field. They work with existing truck manufacturers to make their trucks autonomous. In the collaboration, they develop software and offer technical solutions by utilising their in-house resources, such as technical talents and databases. For example, in March 2017, Nvidia announced that it is working with PACCAR, the global truck manufacturer, to develop autonomous trucks. In April 2018, Baidu’s Apollo, the open platform for autonomous vehicle developers, collaborated with CiDi, a Chinese truck start-up, to complete its first autonomous geo-fenced highways drive.

 

Technology

Current autonomous truck tests mostly take place on motorways or controlled areas. Compared to autonomous cars, autonomous trucks generally face less complicated driving scenarios, such as pedestrians, traffic lights, cyclists, etc.

Various technologies are being used and developed to enable autonomous trucks to operate certain driving tasks. These include: identifying lanes, keeping distance from the nearby vehicles, changing lanes, responding to emergency vehicles, braking in case of obstacles detected, etc. At present, autonomous trucks still require human drivers to sit in the driving seats. This requires the software to identify moments when they must alert the human driver to take back control.

Identifying lanes

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Lanes

 

 

 

 

 

Braking in case of obstacles detected

 

 

 

 

Keeping distance from the nearby vehicles

 

 

 

 

Some of the fundamental hardware required to develop autonomous trucks include: Camera, Radar, Navigation, LiDAR Sensor, IPC. LiDAR sensors measure distance by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses. IPC is an industrial scale computer.

 

Summary

Most car manufactures are considering autonomous vehicles now, as are companies from other industries. There are many start-ups to have been established with an attempt to take a piece of the pie in this industry. Next time, we will take a look at the other autonomous logistics vehicles on the road and off the road.


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.

Let us know your feedback

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