We will not have time to look back one day, as we will observe an “unmanned truck” on public roads. It’s even hard to imagine this picture today, because it doesn’t fit in my head how a fully loaded vehicle can move independently along a given route with a certain speed and maneuvers without human intervention.
Truck manufacturers, as well as the entire logistics business, have been significantly transformed during the pandemic. A significant role in this was played by pressure from Tesla and its innovative developments in autonomous vehicles. In particular, Amazon, with the integration of logistics centers into autonomous hubs. However, today, the general idea of “autonomous transport” is a passenger unmanned vehicle in the role of a “taxi” or all kinds of buses, shuttles plying along specified routes.
Unmanned cargo transportation or targeted delivery, although they are in the shadow of human consciousness, is developing much faster than one can imagine.
The main trigger for the development of unmanned transportation
The period of the pandemic forced the main tech giants to reorient their production to the challenges of today. The existence of a business under systemic restrictions for the period of quarantine implies that it is inside the main business processes. The fundamental point is automation, in other words, minimizing human participation in production. During a pandemic, lockdown, mandatory availability of QR codes, for example, a forwarding driver cannot leave the house, drive and work out the route. As well as the acceptance officer in the warehouse, in case a positive test was revealed in the production of any of the employees. If you imagine this picture, you get the whole horrifying picture, however, modern technologies make it possible to avoid such an outcome.
Long distance trucking is technically an easier area for automation. Within the framework of international cargo transportation, the route involves much fewer transit points, as compared to taxi services. In this case, we get a smaller number of road signs and restrictions, the congestion of the roads themselves, as well as equipment and algorithms that require additional development. There are much fewer pedestrians, pedestrian vehicles (bicycles, scooters), traffic jams, markings and signs on highways.
Already today, some corporations have tested the theory in practice. Thus, AMAZON recently placed an order for 1,000 truck control systems in a startup PLUS and bought an option for 20% of the authorized capital of a legal entity. Face Plus. This startup was developing unmanned control systems for Chinese freight forwarding companies. According to PLUS, their development systems cover more than 1,500 km daily.
Volvo and Scania keep up with the times. Startups are massively launching unmanned technologies for testing, the largest logistics operators are systematically integrating these technologies into their key business processes. For example, FedEX announced that in 2021 it will be introducing a NURO drone to deliver mail in Houston. It is worth noting that FedEX also has an identical Roxo drone in service.
FedEX Intra-Warehouse Logistics is a core component of warehouse automation. The company, in particular, is working to make the service fully automated, without human intervention.
It is also worth considering that the technological breakthrough in the logistics business and its automation affect not only vehicles. Automation also affects maritime, air and rail transport. Technological breakthrough does not bypass Russia. The government is already discussing the creation of a logistics corridor on the M-11 Neva highway. By 2030, unmanned corridors will cover about 20,000 km. public highways.