Dietikon, 28 October 2021
Is autonomous transport just a pipe dream? On the contrary: together with Udelv, we are well on our way to making it a reality.
Traffic jams, stress, smog – everyday occurrences on the roads of most major cities. Too many vehicles are crammed into narrow streets. After all, everyone wants to get to their destination, and of course be supplied with everything they need – food, medication, daily necessities and everything that (online) retail has to offer. The price? Chaos, delays, noise, CO2 emissions, grumpy commuters and an increasingly unhealthy environment.
Keeping cities supplied in an efficient and environmentally sound way – a field known as city logistics – represents a challenge for us logistics professionals and, as a family business, is one of our core concerns. We have been advancing the cause of sustainable drive technology and forward-looking mobility concepts for years now. One of the milestones along the way has been our latest collaboration with the American technology company Udelv. In the summer of 2021, we reserved five of its autonomous electric vehicles. Further details are available in this press release (only available in German, French and Italian).
The Silicon Valley start-up has set itself ambitious goals. It aims to do nothing less than improve the lives of people, traffic safety and sustainability in the area of transport. Udelv is revolutionising the logistics sector with autonomous vehicles for line haul transport from depot to depot and last-mile delivery; i.e. to the front door or post office box. Udelv was founded in California by Daniel Laury and Akshat Patel in 2017, with its first successful autonomous delivery on public roads in 2018. Since then, Udelv has carried out tens of thousands of autonomous shipments annually for businesses in California, Arizona and Texas. The ambitious young company aims to bring more than 35,000 autonomous electric vehicles to the market by 2028.
The challenges of autonomous driving of the type carried out by driverless taxis are enormous. For autonomous transport and delivery, there are additional hurdles, such as automated loading and unloading of parcels. To tackle this Herculean technological challenge, Udelv joined forces with the Israeli Intel subsidiary Mobileye. Mobileye leverages big data knowledge from millions of cameras used in conventional lane assist, laser and radar systems. Mobileye combines this knowledge with real-time data collected by the autonomous vehicle itself. Finally, these insights are enriched with the assumptions and decisions made by people in traffic situations. From this flood of data, the artificial intelligence calculates digital maps precisely to the centimetre, plus a wealth of rules and instructions that the autonomous vehicle must fulfil in order to properly handle or avoid a given traffic situation. The Udelv delivery vehicles are also equipped with automated loading and unloading functions.
Thanks to AI, the electric vehicles from Udelv are equipped with a plethora of data-based decision-making capabilities that go far beyond the ability of a person. This greatly enhances the safety of the vehicles in road traffic. As the AI processors are continuously learning, the vehicle adds further insights to its knowledge base with every metre driven, and also benefits from the live experiences of other vehicles on the road at the same time. Learn more about the Mobileye technology in this video.
Beyond safety, other attractive advantages of autonomous transport are also worth a look. In addition to simple line haul transport between depots, Udelv vehicles are also ideal for inner cities with high concentrations of tailpipe emissions and particulate matter. They are less prone to errors and expand a provider’s service capacity timespan, thus offering efficiency gains in transport.
But people are and will remain central and irreplaceable. That applies, of course, to our customers, for whom we are investing in green technology. But it applies above all to our employees, whose work we assist with smart technology and who we spare the relentless stress of urban traffic jams and constant time pressure. Instead, we deploy our people in rural areas, so that we can continue to deliver parcels to the remotest areas of Switzerland with our customary friendliness. This enables us to shape our first-class parcel service in an even more appealing way and continue to attract the best drivers for Planzer Parcel.
The first pilot trials with autonomous electric delivery vehicles on clearly defined shuttle corridors in Swiss major cities are planned for the coming years. We will keep you up to date on our pioneering work through our digital channels.
Article in the NZZ about our cooperation with Udelv (only in german):
online / print (pdf)
‘With autonomous e-delivery, an innovative parcel service such as Planzer Parcel offers a solution to the rapid growth of online orders and its commitment to the climate and environment.’
Tobias Wessels, Chief Corporate Development Officer at Udelv