Ford Motor Company and Final Destination Logistics exhibitor, DP World, have conducted a trial with a simulated autonomous vehicle at DP World London Gateway to demonstrate how useful such future technology could be to those managing – and employed on – large worksites.
First launched in June, to explore the potential impact upon courier services and doorstep deliveries, the DP World trial tested how recipients managed when accessing self-driving delivery vehicles themselves.
DP World London Gateway – one of the UK’s fastest-growing ports – is located 40km east of Central London and already embraces automated technology as an intrinsic part of its operations as a deep-sea container port.
“It was incredible to see how enthusiastically the team at DP World embraced working with the support of a self-driving vehicle,” enthused Richard Balch, director, Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility, Ford of Europe. “What worked so well at DP World premises could equally be of benefit at universities, airports and manufacturing facilities.”
For the trial, Ford used a specially adapted Transit fitted out to mimic the look of an actual self-driving vehicle with a driver concealed within a ‘Human Car Seat’. Employees at the company’s reception building loaded packages into secure lockers in the rear of the Transit. Then, at set delivery times, the Transit travelled to the main reception 3.5km away so that colleagues there could retrieve them. In the normal way, staff currently retrieve packages from reception themselves. While time consuming, these trips do not warrant a full-time driver.
Every step of the process was monitored by researchers who also conducted interviews with those who took part, before, during and after the trial. They found that employees quickly became comfortable with using the specially equipped van. Some proactively trained colleagues to access their packages, while others were resourceful in overcoming difficulties intentionally introduced by the researchers: such as the wrong parcels being stowed in the wrong lockers.
“Popping in the car to pick up a package from elsewhere on site might not seem like it takes that long, but across multiple journeys over weeks, months and years, this can add up to a lot of time and money,” said Ernst Schulze, UK chief executive of DP World.