Members met this week in the Autotech Council Lounge to take a look at the challenges and opportunities facing the logistics industry as it adapts to the not-so-far-off future of autonomous mobility at our Innovation Review Logistics meeting.
Kicking off with a roundtable to set the scene on the intersection between logistics and autonomy, we took a trip from warehouse, to highway, to city sidewalk with Evangelos Simoudis, Managing Director at Synapse Partners. Outside of the warehouse, where the concept of autonomy is now largely accepted, logistics can be generalized into 3 ‘zones’ – last mile, middle mile and long haul. And while the consumer vision of autonomy leans towards robotaxis, industry consensus predicts trucking will be the first to use autonomous technology - capitalizing on the greater pay-off with highways adapted to offer a “closed circuit” for autonomous trucking with lanes dedicated to platooning vehicles. Even as we move within city boundaries, the movement of goods offer higher financial gains that the movement of people.
The changing mobility landscape presents cities with challenges, not only in how to accommodate autonomy in terms of infrastructure, but how to compensate for revenue losses as people’s movement priorities change. COVID has accelerated a path already embarked upon, where consumers expect retail to come to them with, at best, curbside pickup bringing people into town but more likely an expectation of secure home delivery. Personal mobility options are increasing, with the need for sidewalks and/or pavement to accommodate pedestrians, bicycles, scooters. The curb becomes prime real estate for passenger and goods drop off and pick up so parked vehicles are no longer welcome. Cities will experience a drop in transportation revenue as public transport, parking and traffic violations give way to the new social norms of online shopping and home offices. Even when, 12 months or so from now, the pandemic is managed we should not expect a return to pre-COVID levels of traffic and city activity. The rate of goods delivery may not increase at the current rate, but it will not return to pre-pandemic levels, and teleworking practices will remain long after offices are safe to reopen. All this requires new value chains to be established sooner rather than later, and a longer term view of the future of mobility. Vehicles will need to be multi-purpose, easily convertible to accommodate goods or passengers, or as we are seeing in the airline industry an updated combination of both. Carmakers need to start planning for this new reality now, with Evangelos anticipating full autonomy at the beginning of the next decade. New value chains will need to be established with upgraded mobility models emerging for vehicle provider, tech provider and fleet operators. The upshot? Managing logistics is going to be key to success.
Following on from this discussion, we introduced 6 young companies focused on different segments of the logistics jigsaw, offering solutions in shipping, xportation, robotics, insurance, supply chain and AV freight. Each rapid fire was quizzed by our Autotech Council member panel on their products and solutions.
With thanks to Avanta Ventures for hosting, to our speakers and our member panel. As always, the presentations from this meeting are available in the Member Library, and you can learn more from Evangelos Simoudis in his new book Transportation Transformation.