OnTrac is the parcel logistics firm, which has partnered with the tech startup company BoxBot, to test the application of autonomous vehicles and mobile parcel lockers for last-mile delivery. The future of autonomous vehicles may spend more time carrying packages than people.
Many large automobile manufacturers, as well as small startups, are experimenting with self-driving delivery vehicles. As an example, Boxbot has developed an autonomous electric vehicle for “last-mile deliveries.” The company was founded in 2016 by former Tesla and Uber engineers.
BoxBot’s fleet includes two types of vehicles: parcel delivery vans with external lockers; and self-driving electric cars that manage more complex or expensive deliveries that require signatures. Boxbot’s self-driving delivery vehicles are just one part of a larger network that will also include human-driven vehicles.
Boxbot is planning to set up “automated local hubs” for its delivery vehicles. These hubs will be strategically placed near residential areas, according to Boxbot, allowing the vehicles to be reloaded with packages throughout the day.
Boxbot stated that this will help retailers to offer same-day or next-day shipping, giving their customers more flexibility. The company is planning to allow customers to schedule deliveries whenever they want, even at night.
Boxbot partnered with the logistics company OnTrac to test its self-driving vehicles around Northern California during this summer. Customers receiving packages will get a text message with a unique code, that will be used to retrieve deliveries from lockers in the vehicles. Despite the fact that the autonomous delivery vehicles don’t have anyone onboard to take packages directly to your door, Ford believes it might be able to solve that problem by equipping the delivery vans with robots.
Several other companies are also testing autonomous delivery vehicles. As an example, Udelv and Nuro (two startup companies) are running autonomous grocery-delivery pilot programs. Ford has partnered with Walmart to study this same concept.
Companies are looking to prove the viability of the autonomous vehicles with these delivery services, without having to convince anyone to ride in them, making it easier to implement the autonomous-driving tech project on a larger scale.