Autonomous Vehicles: the future of doorstep deliveries

Kushal Nahata, CEO & co-founder, FarEye, looks at the future of autonomous vehicles and their role in consumer-demanded doorstep deliveries
Kushal Nahata, co-founder and CEO of FarEye.
Kushal Nahata, co-founder and CEO of FarEye.


We are in the midst of an advancing era, an era of non-stop innovation. A plethora of hot trends have been ruling the industry currently, and online shopping is a key one amongst them. An increasing number of consumers now prefer to order goods and services online, and expect the same to reach them in the shortest possible time. As per a recent study, over 273.6 million Indian consumers are expected to shop online in 2019, which implies that doorstep deliveries are going to assume an extremely important role in times to come.

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As a result, logistics enterprises all across have started to reinvent their strategies and shake up their operations, putting extra emphasis on strengthening their delivery function. Newer technologies are being adopted which are far more superior and efficient than the current ones and promise to enrich the existing experiences, while also proving to be advantageous to the businesses, helping them exist profitably in the growing competitive environment. One such exciting technology on which many are willing to lay their hands on is the use of autonomous vehicles for doorstep deliveries.

Up till now, deliverymen have been frequently ringing our doorbells to hand over those brown boxes having our desired items. However, now imagine the goods being delivered to us by…well no one at all? Just a vehicle arriving at our desired location bringing to us exactly what we ordered? Exciting enough! Autonomous deliveries, ones that do not require human drivers or deliverymen, are increasingly being experimented with numerous companies in the West already testing and implementing the breakthrough technology successfully. Like other deliveries, customers are notified on the arrival of the vehicle, and the goods could simply be unloaded using a particular code. These vehicles are programmed to obey the traffic laws, and are embedded with all the necessary sensors and systems, which supports its functioning.

The use of autonomous vehicles would help get items to people’s doors faster. Consultant McKinsey & Co. predicts that in less than a decade, 80 per cent of all items will be delivered autonomously. If this comes true, this could be termed as a a phenomenal achievement!

For the consumer, it is definitely an exciting way to receive goods, but the ultimate beneficiary is going to be the logistics organizations that are going to experience a bundle of improvements in terms of shorter delivery times leading to more deliveries being fulfilled, greater customer satisfaction, enhanced operational efficiency which in turn will propel massive revenue growth for them.

Another significant advantage for the businesses would be a huge reduction in costs. According to Business Insider Intelligence Report, the last mile is the most expensive element, comprising 53% of the share of total shipping costs. McKinsey & Co. predicts that automating the delivery of packages would slash the overall shipping costs by half.

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The innovative, out-of-the-box technology is already being experimented to facilitate the doorstep delivery of groceries in some parts of the world. As per recent estimates, the online grocery market is one of the fastest growing categories in e-commerce, which is expected to reach $4-5 billion in 2020 growing at a CAGR of 60 per cent. The reason is good enough for autonomous deliveries to make way in this segment, to begin with.

Ford Motor Co. has recently announced it’s pairing up with Walmart, the world's largest retailer, to begin laying the groundwork for a driverless grocery delivery service, where the consumer would be greeted by no driver but by an autonomous vehicle. U.S. supermarket operator Kroger Co has also recently launched their autonomous grocery delivery service in the state of Arizona, with plans to expand it further.

These independent, autonomous deliveries are seen to be adding up a concrete layer of innovation to doorstep deliveries, and such developments here and there in different parts of the world are inspiring others in the industry to take a plunge and embrace the new technology to make a difference, to the consumers and to themselves.

However, one can easily say that it is a wait and watch game. How people would engage with these autonomous delivery vehicles over the period of time, would the technology gain widespread acceptance, will the regulations governing their use be properly put in place, would all the risks involved be eliminated, etc are some of the questions that would only be answered with the gradual passage of time, once the technology makes a deeper proliferation.

As of now, the introduction of these autonomous delivery vehicles can be regarded as a revolutionary invention, one that would lower the cost of deliveries, increase the number of deliveries fulfilled and certainly, enhance the customer experience. The future of deliveries seems to be bright. Autonomous vehicles could be the main source of deliveries of all goods, and not just groceries.

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