I have previously discussed the future of personal transport around cities however commercial vehicles have just as much scope for change and are therefore another interesting area to investigate in terms of how our cities might evolve. Although commercial mobility will follow the same electrification, autonomy, connectivity and sharing trends, the application of them is slightly different.
Commercial vehicles disproportionately contribute to urban pollution and congestion, this is due to the higher likelihood that they remain idle for longer, make lots of stops and starts and can easily block traffic. The number of commercial vehicles is also likely to continue to rise due to the rise of e-commerce. The potential to improve the operation of commercial vehicles is therefore huge and there are many technologies currently being developed that could help to reduce the negative impact that these vehicles have on us and our cities.
When thinking about potential improvements to delivery vehicles, we must think about how the land is used in each particular city as well as other social factors. Is it a high density, developed city such as London or Tokyo, a sprawling developed city like LA or a high density developing city such as Beijing?
Autonomous ground vehicles will be great for areas with high labour costs and higher density housing whereas drone deliveries will be better suited for more sprawling cities where there is more space to land.
Two designers from Ford have combined the two new favourite potential home delivery systems to try and solved the problem of the delivery getting from the road to your door. The Autodelivery system uses vans to carry goods most of the journey and then drones come from the van to deliver the package the final few meters.
Other than changes in the vehicles themselves, there are only simple changes to the delivery chain that could vastly improve the cost, environmental impact and convenience of delivery services. Increasing the amount of local consolidation centres located on the outskirts of cities means that larger delivery trucks can be swapped for smaller vehicles within the city that cause less disturbance and can be routed more flexible, this could save 25% per parcel delivery.
Night time deliveries will mean that there is less traffic on the road during the day and combined with the uptake of electric vehicles, noise disturbances during the night will be at a minimum. Local stacks of parcel lockers would also be a great asset to delivery systems as it would save time and mileage due to the reduction of failed deliveries.
Development in transport technologies such as electrification have the potential to reduce many of the negative effects of commercial vehicles on our city streets however I think there is also a huge amount of changes to be made through simple changes to the design of delivery networks as a whole. By localising distributions and changing when deliveries are made, the entire industry could be much more convenient both for the employees and the customers.