ROMA – A new Ford research program dedicated to self-driving vehicles for home delivery of parcels is underway. The initiative sees the collaboration with Hermes, a company specialized in the United Kingdom for deliveries to the final customer, and involves the use of a customized blue oval commercial vehicle, apparently without a driver.
The special Ford Transit is in fact equipped with a particular seat on the driver’s side that can hide the driver: the person behind the wheel is hidden by a fake seat, so at first glance it is easy to believe that there is no one driving the van.
“To bring self-driving vehicles to the road, it is important to focus not only on how to make the technology usable, but also on how it can benefit our customers’ businesses,” explains Richard Balch, Director Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility at Ford of Europe. “Obviously, to understand how customers will have to adapt to new solutions, there is no better way than to test in a real context.”
The main point is this: usually the driver of a commercial vehicle who delivers packages to people is not just a driver. He gets out of the vehicle, intercoms the customer and leaves the parcel with the concierge of the building, sometimes delivering it directly into the hands of the final recipient.
In the case of autonomous driving, everything changes. The van will be supported by a troop of couriers who move on foot equipped with an app that allows them to pull over and unlock the loading door. Inside the vehicle, the voice and digital screen instructions will indicate to the courier the compartment containing the packages to be delivered.
The project will last two weeks, and the vans used will allow Hermes and other companies to analyze possible scenarios in which employees will have to work side-by-side with self-driving vehicles. “We are thrilled to partner with Ford in this pioneering experiment, which aims above all to understand the potential of self-driving vehicles and to find out if they will play an important role in the delivery industry in the long term,” comments Linsey Aston, Head of Product, Innovation and Onboarding. “We are constantly innovating to develop and explore ideas like this and look forward to the first research results, which will undoubtedly prove useful to the entire industry.” (fp)