When it comes to the development of autonomous vehicles, the first question tends to be “When?” As the realities of autonomous development have set in, the timeline seems to have stretched, at least for some applications such as robotaxis.
For other applications — which are more likely to be deployed sooner — the question needs to be asked: “How?”
A seminar at the 2020 Fleet Forward Experience, a virtual event dedicated to mobility solutions for fleets, will bring two autonomous tech startups together with the views of incumbent fleet management to begin putting context to the answer.
In the seminar, Brendan P. Keegan, CEO of Merchants Fleet, will conduct a roundtable conversation with Daniel Laury, cofounder and CEO of Udelv, and Sam Saad, head of operations for Gatik Inc.
Merchants has experience working with nearly every industry, including last mile, and offers a FleetTech model that merges fleet with technology to ensure clients get the best performance out of their fleets.
Udelv has been performing autonomous last-mile deliveries since 2018 with versions of Newton, a converted Ford Transit Connect van that the company hails as “the world’s first public road-enabled Class 1 autonomous delivery van (ADV).”
Udelv has already made over 9,000 autonomous deliveries (with a safety driver) for a variety of merchants, including Walmart in Arizona and XL Auto Parts in Houston.
Gatik, which deploys autonomous vehicles for B2B short-haul logistics, has also been making deliveries for Walmart between two stores in Walmart’s headquarters town of Bentonville, Ark.
Unlike Udelv, Gatik last year stepped up into 11- to 20-foot box trucks fitted with autonomous technology to focus on the middle mile of the logistics and supply chain. Expensive and ripe for efficiency gains, the middle mile’s known, repeatable routes reduce the variabilities of travel, making the answer to “when” seem a little sooner.
Both models provoke questions from a fleet management perspective:
Will autonomous vehicles be leased in the same way they are today, or will fleets contract with third party autonomous services? What types of fleets are natural first adopters for autonomy? At what point will fleet operators see the operational benefit outweigh the initial investment?
“Those questions are the tip of the iceberg for this session,” said Chris Brown, conference chair. “Fleets need the answers to these questions, as they’ll be at the forefront of the deployment of this technology. Brendan’s leadership position at a tech-focused fleet management company, combined with his C-suite background with Fortune 100 players, makes him the right person to ask these questions.”
This one-hour seminar takes place Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 11a PST. The virtual 2020 Fleet Forward Experience convenes Nov. 9-13. The conference agenda will focus on electrification, connectivity, shared mobility, and autonomous technology solutions for corporate, government, and commercial fleets.