The transport and logistics landscape is changing. We knew “the future” was coming – and now it’s here
Growing up, the one thing I can recall having the most impact on everyday life was the widespread availability and use of the cellphone. Most of us have probably (thankfully) forgotten the time when people used to walk around with a “brick” in a leather pouch clipped to their belts...
Other than a car, a cellphone was just about the only “grown up” thing I wanted. I vividly remember playing with one of my dad’s “bricks” one night on a family holiday and sternly being told by him to not break it, because “that’s my connection to the world.” It was then swiftly removed from my grasp and clipped back onto his belt...
If my dad were alive today, I don’t quite think he’d believe the magnitude of his comment in the modern context, and just how much mobile telecommunications and connectivity have changed our world in the 18 or 20 years since.
Remember when the digital point-and-shoot cameras became widespread at some point in the 1990s? There were also those rare phones with colour-graphic screens, owned by only the wealthiest people I knew. “Imagine if a cellphone could take pictures,” we joked, somehow knowing at the same time that, one day, it was bound to happen.
Away from personal use, today powerful, lightweight digital cameras and their ability to communicate and share what they “see” has moved the game of transport and logistics into a new era. It’s a key technology, without which we probably wouldn’t have been able to create autonomous vehicles and their ability to platoon, for example.
This has been a hot topic of discussion over the last year or so, but could be considered old news already – such is the rate of technological advancement... With the long-haul aspect spoken for, attention has now turned to the “last mile” of transporting goods.
With many concepts in the spotlights of the IAA Commercial Vehicle show (on which we’ll report next month), it’s clear that, once again, we have digital cameras and mobile communications to thank. The pressure for same-day delivery, together with increasingly strict inner-city emissions legislation, has meant that vehicles of a different sort are now entering the fray: drones.
While they’ve been used by the military since the 1970s, the use of drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – for civil and recreational use, has really taken off this decade. In 2013, DHL experimented with parcel delivery by drone, and Amazon announced it was working on the rapid delivery of lightweight commercial products using UAVs. Some smiled in anticipation, others laughed at the idea – but we all knew that one day it would happen.
And so, at the IAA, concept vehicles that make integral use of the drone have been displayed. Mercedes-Benz – just ahead of the IAA – launched its adVANce programme to develop future solutions, one of which is its Vision Van that is equipped with two drones. This allows for one vehicle to conduct multiple deliveries at once.
Nissan, on the other hand, has revealed its Navara EnGuard Concept. Designed as a rescue vehicle, it uses a drone that can be sent out to relay images back to the vehicle on a high-definition screen that pops-up from the load-bed wall...
Of course, there’s so much more to come ... but the future called, so we already knew that.
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