Most of the time, when you order something online, you probably get it delivered in a fairly traditional manner. A person drives up in a large truck and drops the package off, either with you or perhaps a neighbor. Then there is always the possibility it gets returned to the delivery facility because there was nobody to sign for it, in which case, you may eventually have to go pick it up yourself. This conventional model may be coming to and end, thanks to technological innovations. Package delivery is changing rapidly as automation and other advances are making deliveries easier and more efficient. Often times these solutions are more environmentally sound as well.
Smart Package Lockers
Smart package lockers are a great innovation for anyone who has ever gone through the frustration of waiting for a package to be delivered or dealt with lost, stolen or damaged packages. A package locker is a relatively simple solution that allows the person making the delivery to place the package in an appropriately-sized locker. The recipient can then use either a PIN or a phone to unlock the locker and pickup their package.
Some companies are looking into combining robots with package lockers for even further automation. A manufacturer of parcel lockers in Estonia has also created a robot that drives itself in the last mile, delivering parcels at various lockers. The device uses a robotic arm to put the parcel in the locker. People find out they have a package when they get a message about it from their phones. The widespread use of autonomous vehicles such as these will depend on regulations.
When Amazon first announced it would begin to use drones for delivery, it caused a mixture of excitement and alarm. Not everyone was entirely comfortable with the idea of unmanned machines flying around and making deliveries. As is the case with autonomous vehicles that operate on land, drones will be subject to more refinement and regulation before they will come close to replacing human delivery drivers. However, companies have big plans for them, including an Amazon plan to have them make Prime deliveries in under 30 minutes in some areas.
Autonomous cars and drones will be subject to road and air regulations and other safety concerns, but what about going underground? A company called Mole has been working on developing automated solutions for moving freight around underground. Unlike the above innovations, this research is focused less on delivery solutions for individuals and more on commercial needs.
Other Delivery Innovations
Companies are looking at other ways of ensuring that packages are not delivered to empty homes or returned to the delivery facilities as well. For example, one company is considering making deliveries to people’s cars, using their trunks as secure lockers. The people would then be notified by smartphone of the delivery. Other companies are looking at innovations for the last mile of a delivery chain. For example, Mercedes-Benz has been developing an electric van that will have a driver as well as drones to deliver packages in cities and other dense areas. The driver and the drones can work at the same time, shortening delivery time.