Ford and Hermes Explore the Future of Driverless Deliveries

Doorstep deliveries are more a part of our lives than ever before – but the way that we receive those parcels could soon be undergoing a change. We have announced a new Self-Driving Vehicle Research Programme designed to help businesses in Europe understand how autonomous vehicles can benefit their operations.

One of the U.K.’s leading consumer delivery specialists, Hermes, is the first business to partner with us on the programme, with the goal of better understanding how other road users interact with an apparently driverless delivery van.

NB: This video was created in compliance with the U.K. Highway Code. The research employs a specially adapted Ford Transit van that mimics the look of an actual self-driving vehicle, plus a “Human Car Seat” in control of the vehicle – this enables an experienced, hidden driver to drive while giving the impression to others around that there is no one at the wheel.

A commercial vehicle driver’s responsibilities sometimes extend beyond simply driving from one destination to another. In a delivery or logistics operation, for example, the driver may also be tasked with sorting and loading goods, manually handing packages over to recipients – or reloading them onto the van if delivery is not possible.

However, in this research, the driver will play an entirely passive role, simply driving the vehicle. The focus instead is on understanding and designing how humans will interact with the vehicle, and on ensuring that business processes are able to continue safely without a driver present.

Our two-week research project with Hermes builds on the success of our “last mile delivery” trials in London, in which a team of pedestrian couriers collects parcels from a delivery van and fulfils the last leg of the delivery by foot resulting in fast, sustainable and efficient deliveries in cities.

As we plan to bring autonomous vehicles to the roads, it is important that we focus not only on enabling the technology, but on enabling our customers’ businesses.

Richard Balch, Director,
Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility, Ford of Europe


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