Feature, Freight News, Road

DHL mulls land-based ‘drones’

[ December 9, 2014   //   ]

Following its experiments with pilotless flying drones, DHL has published a new report on their land-based counterparts, Self-Driving Vehicles in Logistics.

DHL considers that it is in a prime position to innovate in this area. Self-driving forklift trucks and the like are nothing new in warehouses, but vehicles of the future might include yard, port and airport operations, assisted highway trucking and ‘convoying’ and last-mile delivery.

The report covers best-practice applications from different industries and concrete use cases of self-driving vehicles across the entire logistics value chain. Director of DHL trend research, Dr Markus Kückelhaus sees moving onto public roads as the next evolutionary step. With its history in deploying self-driving solutions in controlled environments like warehouses, the logistics industry is in a prime position to further shape the future of self-driving vehicles, he believes.

Contrary to what some people might think, self-driving vehicles could actually improve road safety, as well as offer better fuel efficiency and emissions, the report argues. However, the report warns that autonomous technologies still have some way to go before reaching full maturity and regulations, public acceptance and issues of liability all have to be brought in line.

On public highways and streets, self driving would in the near future really mean enhancements to existing driver-assistance functions but autonomous driving could be used at a later stage in specific situations such as on congested highways. Further into the future, there could be fully autonomous truck convoys on highways.