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Remote Controlled Distribution Networks

22 Nov 2015

As the technology surrounding driverless cars and drones advances, there is a growing likelihood that these will become much more common in future for transportation. Businesses will be able to exploit technology, some of which is already in place, to provide unmanned distribution solutions.

Existing Challenges

It is not hard to see why distribution companies are excited by the prospect of using drones and driverless vehicles in order to ships goods from one place to another. Container ships used currently to transport cargo and pallets require at least 14 crew members to operate and navigate a vessel, which can contribute significantly to a company’s overheads. It is not just the costs of employing and training humans to drive vehicles that can be a burden, as practical implications play a part, too. Truck drivers, for example, need to take regular breaks, which can make journeys longer, and human error is a big factor when accidents occur.

How Technology Overcomes the Challenges

Driverless technology can help to solve many of the problems associated with having manned vehicles. When ships carrying cargo and wooden pallets, for example, are operated remotely without large numbers of crew, it can reduce overheads.

Driverless trucks and vehicles can carry goods from one place to another for longer periods of time without needing a break, and human error can be eliminated that may be responsible for accidents. Keeping at a steady speed and negotiating a smoother flow of traffic may also slash fuel consumption and make it easier for businesses to estimate arrival times. Technology will also enable driverless vehicles to manage changing road conditions, so they can negotiate and update delivery times with customers during the journey.

Drones used to deliver goods, such as those being developed by Amazon, can help to speed up delivery times and offer more reliability in ensuring the right product is delivered to the right place.

Even if a human is deployed with a vehicle, they can get on with other tasks instead of steering or driving. Rather than being a driver, the person will be considered more of a transport manager as driverless technology comes to the fore.

Potential Pitfalls

Although the concept of controlling a crewless ship by a remote control or using a computer to self-drive a truck is alluring, there are still risks that may be difficult to eliminate. A company shipping wooden pallets, for instance, would have to work out how it would manage the threat of attack from pirates, whilst also considering how it would tackle any emergency situations that necessitated a human response. Using drones to accompany cargo ships is one solution that may eliminate problems such as pirate attacks, and it has already been in use in the USA for some time.

The use of drones to deliver parcels will also need to overcome logistical and communication issues and gain regulatory support, but companies such as Amazon believe it is only a matter of time before such technology is commonly used for distribution.

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