Jun 12, 2019

Automakers and retailers explore bots and lockers to automate delivery

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

In an eye-catching video, Ford and Agility Robotics recently touted their partnership and vision for autonomous delivery, illustrating the need for a system that can navigate from a parked vehicle up a set of stairs to reach the front door, for example.

The big picture: Autonomous vehicles are expected to decrease delivery costs by eventually removing drivers from the equation entirely, but the logistics of last meter delivery in particular remain intractable.

Details: Industry leaders in the autonomous delivery space are generally pursuing two solutions to get deliveries into the hands of recipients: parcel lockers and “motherships."

The parcel locker model involves storage units in highly trafficked areas that separate and secure packages for numerous recipients. Amazon already has lockers at Whole Foods locations.

  • Parcel lockers decrease delivery costs, mainly by reducing driving distances.
  • However, if parcel lockers proliferate, they will likely demand some infrastructure investment in city centers, where real estate costs are high.
  • Not to mention, parcel lockers put a burden on consumers to ‘commute’ to retrieve parcels and to get them home.

In the mothership model, a large autonomous vehicle would not only hold the parcels, but also fleet of drones or bots that can navigate stairs and apartment buildings for example.

  • This model has a high potential for cost reduction as no human driver is needed in the vehicle.
  • However use of drones at scale will require a federal regulatory framework, and the drones themselves will need HD maps for every potential delivery location.
  • This model could run into additional complications in dense cities as buildings and high foot traffic could make navigation more challenging.

The bottom line: The last meter of package delivery may prove to be the biggest challenge.

Philipp Kampshoff is a partner at McKinsey & Company in the automotive & assembly practice.

Go deeper

Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,453,784 — Total deaths: 345,886 — Total recoveries — 2,191,310Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,651,254 — Total deaths: 97,850 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Top Boris Johnson aide defends himself after allegations he broke U.K. lockdown — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.