Nowadays, people still struggle to rely on autonomous vehicles (AV) to get around the city, and one of the main reasons could be the lack of safety testing standards for autonomous vehicles, together with cybersecurity issues concerning road safety and data privacy. We will not deepen all the causes now, but if you want to learn more about public perception and expectations, you can find more information about user acceptance of an autonomous shuttle bus test here.

However, people seem to be more trustful when we talk about autonomous delivery, probably because they do not put their safety at risk. Let’s see together what the pros and cons of autonomous delivery are, and how far research results have come.

Pros could be:

  • Efficiency: thanks to their algorithms, autonomous vehicles can deliver on their own, not depending on a human to drive them.
  • Availability 24/7: human drivers need to take breaks, have sleep, and days off, but autonomous vehicles do not. This enables deliveries to go on every hour and every day.
  • Reduced costs: since the presence of a human driver is no longer necessary, operating costs decrease significantly.
  • Increased safety: in a mobility-connected world, driverless vehicles are able to avoid collisions and improve road safety, thanks to machine learning algorithms, sensors, and LIDAR technology. In addition, this could reduce accident rates and avoid traffic congestion.
  • Zero-emissions: most of the driverless vehicles are electric, unlike the majority of transport vehicles commonly on the roads now. Adopting this type of technology could help society to impact less on the planet.

At the moment, the cons could be:

  • Lacking regulations: currently, many countries are not yet ready to embrace these technologies in legislative terms and this is an essential step, necessary for the adoption of autonomous vehicles.
  • Security and responsibility: autonomous vehicles risk the cargo on board to be stolen or damaged, since there is no human control. This kind of problem could lead to insurance and responsibility questions.

Fortunately, the cons are less than the pros at the moment, and they are probably just a matter of time.

Some of the biggest companies have already started investing in the autonomous delivery sector and have tested their driverless vehicles: for instance, FedEx Express – a FedEx Corporation subsidiary – tested a Level 4 technology autonomous vehicle in China in 2021. Carrefour has also started testing some driverless trucks in France, starting in 2022. Even Amazon, the most famous company in delivery, launched its own autonomous vehicle in 2019: it is a small and compact delivery vehicle that delivers packages to houses.

In addition to those mentioned above, hundreds of companies and start-ups believe this is going to be the future of logistics.

The European Union has moved in this direction as well, actively financing some projects related to automated logistics through Cooperative, Connected and Automated Mobility (CCAM): for example, MODI, which will focus on barriers for SAE Level 4 CCAM vehicles from Rotterdam to Oslo, accelerating the mass adoption of highly automated solutions for logistics chains.

SINFONICA’s contribution is to make automated mobility more clear, inclusive, and easy to understand, and these contributes to know more about people’s needs and expectations: we collect doubts and feedback about logistics from consumers’ points of view, in order to help institutions and stakeholders to build more efficient and inclusive strategies. SINFONICA aims to increase knowledge and awareness about the CCAM world, collaborating with EU-funded projects and sharing insights and news about automated mobility with the inclusive CCAM community!

To conclude, we will have to wait a little longer before autonomous delivery can get into everyday life, but we can say that research in this field is giving good news, and it seems that the future is moving in this direction.

<a href=””>Picture by freepik</a>