Innovations & Start-ups: Autonomous Trucking, Robots, AI, and more…

Martijn Graat
Martijn Graat

Trends and innovations in supply chain and logistics: that is what this blog is all bout. Therefore I periodically bring you an overview of the news on logistics start-ups and innovations below. Follow @LogisticsMatter on Twitter to stay updated with the latest news and the best background stories. The previous edition was Innovations and Start-Ups: Picking Robots, Autonomous Trucking, and Drones. This edition has more news about Drones and Robots, news on autonomous driving, AI, and some startups active in the delivery space.

Feel Like Flyin (~Racoon)

Many companies are testing last-mile delivery with drones. Valqari and USOG experimented with delivering food and drinks to fans in a baseball stadium, making it the first time drones were delivering to a sporting venue.

“Drone delivery has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of main kitchens across large campuses and remote venues, and expand the ways fans can access the food and beverage they enjoy most at an event. We look forward to building on the learnings from these milestone flights,” Lansing said.

According to a press release, the goal of the Alexander Field pilot was to test user experience, food quality and delivery accuracy.

Drone delivery is giving stadium food a lift

Drone delivery provider Flytrex has been piloting the delivery of subs from a food chain called Jersey Mike’s, which has the now very apt payoff “A Sub Above.”

Flytrex conducts flights in the state in conjunction with a local partner, Causey Aviation Unmanned. The companies’ recent agreement with the FAA permits drone deliveries within 1 nautical mile.

Bash and Flytrex have been busy in recent months. Most notably, the drone delivery provider launched a service in Granbury, Texas, last month in collaboration with Brinker International, which owns brands like Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy. That comes after Flytrex secured a $40 million funding raise in November to expand its operations.

A sub above? Jersey Mike’s partners with drone delivery provider Flytrex

Love Songs for Robots (~Patrick Watson)

Modern Materials Handling launched a survey right before Modex to find out the state of robotics in logistics.

…three important takeaways:

1. Adoption: Based on the survey results, the market is still split on the value from robotics.

2. Labor: Those using robots, or interested in using robots, aren’t looking to replace labor. They are instead looking to make the most of their existing labor by augmenting processes.

3. Value: A significant percentage of end users who have made the leap to adopt robotics are realizing their business case objectives, meeting their ROI goals and looking for ways to expand the use of robots into other areas of their operations.

The state of robotics

Locus Robotics wrote a blog post on the future of warehouse labour, stating that robots will not take jobs away.

When robots are introduced into a warehouse, warehouse associates may fear that their jobs will be displaced by the bots, creating what’s known as a “lights out factory”. A lights out factory is one that is entirely automated, without human workers.

During a recent MassRobotics panel, “The Future of Work: Jobs in an Age of Robotics”, panelist Ira Moskowitz, CEO of the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, dispelled that fear while admitting that the narrative does exist. He stated that in his 30 years of working in the industry, he’s never seen someone deploy robots at a facility to replace a person. Instead, the robots take on the mundane or dangerous tasks, leaving the humans still employed and working on different tasks.

Robots Aren’t Taking Jobs Away: The Future of Warehouse Labor

DHL is trialling a new robotic sorting device called the Dorabot. The first results look promising, showing a productivity increase of 100%!

“What we’re going up against is a human’s ability to sort into bags – anywhere from 50-75 bags,” said a member of DHL Americas. “We’ve seen anywhere from 200 packages an hour to 500, and then they have to do the bagging process.

Dorabot hit over 1,000 an hour; we’ve hit 1,200-1,300 an hour, with the machine taking directly off the line sorter system.”

Efficiencies lie in the time difference in reading waybills, for which Dorabot uses barcode cameras. DHL says the robot can sort packages within 3.6 seconds, on average, with “close to zero” errors.

Efficiency doubles with Dorabot as DHL tries to combat labour shortage

Some other interesting reads on robots:

On the Road Again (~ Willie Nelson)

Many exciting stories about innovations on the road, ranging from electric vehicles to fully automated trucks.

Volvo and DHL will work together on autonomous trucking, tackling one of logistics’ most significant problems: the driver shortage.

“This is more than an autonomous truck — it is the Autonomous Transport Solution, which we believe will create value for the entire transportation ecosystem, all with optimized operations that reduce emissions and increase safety,” Nils Jaeger, president of Volvo Autonomous Solutions, said in a press release.

The future deployment of the Class 8 Volvo VNL autonomous trucks will be DHL’s first TaaS operation globally. The German company reserved 100 Navistar autonomous trucks from startup TuSimple last December and earlier joined the Partnership Development Program at Embark Trucks.

“We are full-speed-ahead on the adoption of the next wave of transportation solutions including autonomous trucks,” said Jim Monkmeyer, DHL Supply Chain North America president, transportation.

Volvo, DHL get ready for hub-to-hub autonomous trucking

Other exciting news stories on self-driving trucks:

In the meantime, ABB installed one of the fastest chargers in the world in Norway. ABB’s Terra 360 charges an electric vehicle in just 15 minutes! Speed of charging is essential for operators of electric trucks. The faster they charge, the less time they lose doing so. With battery capacity no way near large enough to last a full day, fast charging extends the range of the truck.

The Scandinavian country has the most electric cars per capita in the world, with EVs accounting for 65% of the total car sales in 2021. That’s both due to the appealing incentives it offers and the well-developed supporting infrastructure — for instance, the government has already established fast-charging stations every 50km on all main roads.

Hold on, why does Norway get the world’s fastest EV charger!?

Other exciting news stories on electric vehicles:

In Other News (~ Miles Keep)

The last two subjects for this round-up are Artificial Intelligence and Start-ups.

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