22 August, 2019

How will autonomous vehicles
change logistics?
#12 | “The Future of Logistics” Series


In our last post, we looked at the potential ways Autonomous Vehicle (AV) could operate in the future and the benefits it might bring. However, it’s never plain sailing for any new technology. In this post, we are going to look into the challenges, measures and the impact of AV on the logistics warehouses.

Challenges and Measures

how will autonomus vehicles 1

Legislation

Without regulations in place, it’s possible that AVs won’t be permitted on the road, even if the technology is fully developed and tested. Quite simply, laws need to be drafted, agreed and enforced and the process is slower than the speed of AV development. On the other hand, without knowing what the future regulations will look like, there is a risk for AVs being developed and then failing to meet legislative standards.

To mitigate this, the UK government started the work on the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 in October 2017. Following agreement by both Houses on the text of the Bill, it received Royal Assent on 19 July 2018 and is now an Act of Parliament.

The government has also started a consultation with industry experts and has set up a series of proposals and codes of practice, which give more clarity on how to deal with the challenges. They include Government response to the pathway to driverless cars consultation and Code of practice: automated vehicle trialling.

Cyber Security

The safety of AVs largely relies on the software, which leads to further regulations on AV-specific cyber security. At the moment, the UK government has established a series of documents to serve as 8 key principles of AV cyber security.

They are below:

  1. Organisational security is owned, governed and promoted at board level.
  2. Security risks are assessed and managed appropriately and proportionately, including those specific to the supply chain.
  3. Organisations need product aftercare and incident response to ensure systems are secure over their lifetime.
  4. All organisations, including sub-contractors, suppliers and potential 3rd parties, work together to enhance the security of the system.
  5. Systems are designed using a defence-in-depth approach.
  6. The security of all software is managed throughout its lifetime.
  7. The storage and transmission of data is secure and can be controlled.
  8. The system is designed to be resilient to attacks and respond appropriately when its defences or sensors fail

Impact on logistics warehouses

So if AVs can overcome all the challenges, what will be the impact on the logistics industry? We’ve already explored the potential benefits of adopting AVs in our last post, including extended driving hours and distance, reduced motorway traffic and congestion, better customer service and safer road conditions. But what are the potential impacts on logistics warehouses?

The biggest impact of AVs on logistics warehouses is likely to be on where a warehouse can be located.

Connection to road networks

If there’s no restriction on drive time, distances can theoretically be extended, if cost effective. This will allow for warehouses to be located in new sites further from main motorway junctions.

More land can then be utilised for building warehouses, which will potentially address the current demand/supply imbalance. This can then add to the online shopping offer, which will benefit from a shorter delivery time and reduced cost. In turn, this could lead to even more demand for warehouse space.

Residential areas shift

Residential areas have the potential to shift with the use of AVs. Similar to logistics warehouses, residential properties can be located in areas further away from road networks and other transportation links. As residential areas move, logistics warehouses, especially those serve as the last-mile distribution hubs, will also need to either relocate, or find more efficient ways of getting goods to consumers.

Summary

Without doubt there are challenges in adopting Autonomous Vehicles, as with any revolutionary technology throughout history. But the benefits of AVs clearly overweigh the risks and challenges. Moreover, the legislation, security and technological challenges are currently being dealt with proactively by government and businesses. The process toward an era of Autonomous Vehicles is unstoppable, although it will take time.

This is the last post of the “Future of Logistics” blog series. In the series, we have covered the topics of Blockchain, Robotics, AI, Drones and Autonomous Vehicles. One thing we can conclude from this series is that logistics industry is working at full tilt to adopt new technologies.