Elias Demangos, president and CEO, Fortigo Freight, says progress regarding autonomous vehicles is slowing, overall transportation is undergoing many rapid and profound changes.
Over the past couple of years, self-driving trucks have made mainstream headlines. Companies like Waymo (Google), Tesla and Daimler (Mercedes) have all announced some iteration of an autonomous truck, signalling the beginning of a shift towards greater innovation through technology in the logistics sector.
But, progress is slowing, evidenced by the likes of Otto (owned by Uber) shutting down earlier this year, and the large public call for greater regulation and consideration around what driverless vehicles really mean for our roads. As this is put under a microscope, there are a number of other areas whereby technology is beginning to shape the future of the transport arena.
We want it NOW
The IoT has introduced greater connectivity between freight service providers, customers and the end-consumer, driven largely by what most today would call the ‘Amazon effect’. The rise in demand from end-consumers wanting next-day deliveries and tracking capabilities has had a spill-over effect for logistics providers. Customers with fleets to manage now want real-time tracking updates on their inventory. It’s no longer enough to provide an estimated time. Furthermore, customers are wanting greater insight into what inventory is on which truck, giving them greater transparency concerning their deliveries.
To provide this level of insight to customers, handheld devices are now in the pockets of many drivers, making supply chain management more efficient than ever. Proprietary applications are serving as a central hub of information, keeping the fleet provider informed of their drivers’ daily work, while also giving the customer a track record for ensuring key performance indicators (KPIs) are being met.
This includes an enhanced GPS system that builds on Google Maps to ensure that every driver is able to optimise routes along the way. With greater connectivity through handheld devices, dispatchers are also able to send updates to drivers when inclement weather or road works will impact a delivery. This allows for optimised efficiency, saving logistics companies as well as their customers, both time and money.
Adding Artificial Intelligence
These apps are also beginning to see further integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. With transport management systems (TMS) acting as the centralised hub for fleet providers, a vast amount of data is being captured and tracked around freight deliveries. The use of AI and Machine Learning is beginning to allow for more predictive analytics around future loads, meaning that the technology will soon be able to forecast demand to the customer based on previous trends in deliveries, as well as changes in external factors that will determine cost fluctuations.
On from this, with the increased urbanisation and development of Smart Cities, like Google’s Sidewalk Labs in downtown Toronto, the way in which freight companies gain access to the downtown core will also continue to change. Millennials are buying less cars and more pedestrian-only areas are becoming the standard. Beyond this, the concentration of the population in these downtown areas also means an increased in restricted access by transport trucks.
We’re now beginning to see old multi-story parking garages turning into pop-up warehouses, used as storage facilities for inventory by larger companies like Amazon. Eventually these warehouses will all be serviced by larger trucks, while the final mile will be delivered by smaller vehicles to their exact locations.
The science of routing
One last area in which technology is shaping the transportation sector is through routing software, making the contents and inventory of a truckload more configurable. Determining the best way to stack various contents – whether it’s wiring for communication networks or consumer goods, will ensure the most optimised delivery sequence based on what’s being delivered. Improvement in this technology will mean drivers are offloading and onloading contents more efficiently and maximising space across all deliveries.
As more technological developments are seen over the coming years, the transportation sector will continue to reap the rewards. It’s imperative that trucking companies begin to see technology as more than just a nice-to-have and view it as a necessity in their daily operation. The further integrated transportation companies become with technology, the more opportunity they will find in optimising every process of their business.
For more information, see of Fortigo Freight
The author of this blog is Elias Demangos, president and CEO, Fortigo Freight