The pitstop at the end of the universe – re-imagining the sector
Like almost every other industry, sector or business vertical, the transportation industry is also witnessing a major shift. From autonomous vehicles to delivery drones – ideas once considered wildly impractical, are now an everyday reality, or are at the edge of implementation.
Think Amazon Prime Air, a drone-based delivery system designed to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Start-ups like Uber and Lyft are also pushing the envelope: in October 2016, Uber’s autonomous trucking arm ‘Otto’ made a 120 mile delivery of 50,000 beer cans via an 18-wheeler self-driving vehicle!
The transformation, is clearly, very real.
This is a ‘brave new world’ created by an evolving and ever-demanding consumer – an e-commerce juggernaut that refuses to stop – and the need for firms to hold onto a competitive advantage.
Public transport is now a ‘zero area wastage’ scenario. Vehicles are shared resources reducing time-lags, maximising passenger capacity and adding a bit of environmental consciousness to the mix.
At the heart of this revolution is data. Data, as someone once said, ‘is the new oil’ helping to unearth opportunities, gather critical user information and map preferences.
No more road rage – talking cars, sentient machines
AI or ‘Artificial Intelligence’ is the mantra everywhere – and cars aren’t beyond its sweep.
Equipped with myriad sensors, ‘smart vehicles’ are turning comic-book fantasy (everybody’s favourite ‘bat-mobile’) into a hard body, polished glass and a shiny dashboard. These cars can literally ‘talk’ or communicate with each other, assess road conditions, and exchange other essential information.
Semi-autonomous features are increasingly common, such as adaptive cruise control, parking assist systems, lane keeping systems, and lane departure warning systems.
What this purports to do, is dramatically reduce casualty rates: lesser accidents, improved road safety, and noticeable efficiency optimisation.
Agile, Lean, & Prepared – ‘logistics-as-a-service’ business models
Cloud computing and advanced telematics offer real-time data on vehicle location, health of the driver, the temperature and barometric pressure of the freight, and so on. Companies can therefore, afford to plan ahead and rapidly alter scenarios, in response to volatility or disruptive events.
Eventually, telematics would also facilitate automated freight matching, and help generate the most effective and cost-managed blueprint for load-moving.
Don’t sweat it, just share it – the ubiquity of the ‘sharing economy model’
From UberCARGO in Hong Kong to Dolly in the U.S. and Nimber in Norway or even the newer Carrybo from Ireland, this is a breakthrough trend, one that’s steadily becoming a popular global commercial transport alternative.
Convoy’s multi-year deal with Unilever was all the rage recently; a plan geared to facilitate the company’s shipments through online service. The software has a deceptively simple approach: match deliveries coming in with available tractor-trailers from smaller local providers in the area to boost scheduling efficiency and contain shipment downtimes.
‘Future Shock’ or ‘Back to the future’ – the road ahead is just as exciting
These are interesting times; the pace of change is dizzying – and truth be told, the acceleration is yet to kick in. As smartphone users increase in numbers, as fresh approaches to travel arise, and as consumer behaviour is revitalised by insight and analysis, transportation as an idea (personal, commercial, bulk or individual) will keep changing, in the pursuit of speed and simplicity.
Newer players will come in, jostling for space with the older behemoths, and the world will continue to morph into one giant highway, always on the move, ever-alert for the next signal.