Ford & Hermes Explore Future of Doorstep Deliveries
Ford has announced a new Self-Driving Vehicle Research Programme designed to help businesses in Europe understand how autonomous vehicles can benefit their operations. One of the UK’s leading consumer delivery specialists Hermes is the first business to partner with Ford on the programme. Using a customised Ford commercial vehicle, the research aims to better understand how other road users would interact with an apparently driverless delivery van. The specially adapted Ford Transit features sensors that mimic the look of an actual self-driving vehicle plus a “Human Car Seat” in control of the vehicle – this enables an experienced, hidden driver to drive while giving the impression to others around that there is no one at the wheel.
A commercial vehicle driver’s responsibilities sometimes extend beyond simply driving from one destination to another. In a delivery or logistics operation, for example, the driver may also be tasked with sorting and loading goods, manually handing packages over to recipients – or reloading them onto the van if delivery is not possible. However, in this research, the driver will play an entirely passive role, simply driving the vehicle. Pedestrian couriers who support the delivery van are equipped with a smartphone app that lets them hail the vehicle and remotely unlock the load door after it is safely parked at the roadside. Once inside, voice prompts and digital screens direct the courier to their locker, containing the parcels to be delivered.
Understanding and designing how humans will interact with the vehicle will ensure that business processes are able to continue safely without a driver present.
The research vehicles will enable Hermes and other businesses to begin designing how their teams could work alongside driverless vehicles. For Hermes, this user design research has included developing an app that enables the pedestrian couriers to access the van to collect parcels, once again, this is a role that the human driver would normally fulfil.