The art and science of logistics is entering a state of technology-driven upheaval. As the Internet prepares to enter its fourth decade of life, the ever-expanding capacity of digital technology has led to the automation of many features of parcel delivery, including of course same-day delivery. As more and more aspects of same-day delivery are taken over by machine processes, we will witness improvements in the quantity and quality of commercial deliveries, accessible even to small business owners. But what will the final result look like?
The warehouse is the location most directly impacted by automation technology. Here, machines can progressively take over more and more of the repetitive tasks to which they are by nature better suited than human beings. Machines can perform the same motions over and over again without becoming bored, stressed, or tired, and can communicate with each other instantaneously, adapting their pace as conditions demand.
Thus, repeatedly lifting and moving boxes between two locations becomes one of the first activities slated to be replaced by robotics. While robots have had trouble lifting oddly-shaped or delicate packages, recent advances are increasing their capability to deal with these obstacles.
Artificial intelligence is poised to make a huge impact on the way goods are routed through the transportation system. Until recently, a driver would have had to be intimately familiar with the layout of a particular locality in order to deliver a package in a commercially acceptable time frame.
These days, all drivers are equipped with GPS navigation in some form, which not only allows drivers to navigate to even out-of-the-way destinations with relative ease, but also permits buyers and other interested parties the convenience of real-time tracking, so they can know where exactly their parcel is at every step of the process.
This is the big “what if” of transport automation. Driverless vehicles have recently appeared on the scene along with drone technology, giving consumers a tantalizing glimpse of a future in which distribution might become 100% automated. But there are still major impediments to this. Amazon had to ground its drones under regulatory pressure since safe interaction with other objects in the airways cannot yet be assured, and driverless cars have not been found to be 100% safe or effective in dealing with real-time road conditions.
A more likely next step will be partial automation, in which human drivers using GPS handle “the last mile” of delivery to an ultimate destination. The proliferation of GPS will enable more and more of this last mile to be outsourced to local couriers, who can combine the cutting-edge tech with a deeply ingrained knowledge of local roads, conditions, and social mores.
The technology may be new, but the fact that technology keeps changing is nothing new. Noticeable improvements in technology have been a feature of daily life since the 1400s. Now, as then, we still need reliable ways to get from point A to point B. Now, as then, machines and humans interact to achieve these goals. But so far, only the horses are gone — the driver remains, and will remain, in his seat for the foreseeable future. To learn more about what we at Reliable Couriers are doing to stay ahead of the automation curve, call 888-415-1781.