Another self-driving joint venture. Alex Taussig on the future of transport. Autonomous research boats.
Delivering the future
The commercialization of autonomous last-mile delivery drones accelerated this year, as startups working on both aerial and ground-based solutions moved from prototyping to trials in the field for everything from food to postal delivery.
Besides Amazon, which first stoked optimism with its Prime Air concept, other corporates are now seeking to capitalize on opportunities in the space. This week Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, made a multi-million dollar investment in aerial drone startup Matternet while also partnering with Starship Technologies for ground drones.
Daimler also announced its adVANce initiative, committing €500 million (~$562 million) to develop electric, networked delivery vans over the next 5 years. It unveiled Mercedes van concepts that will serve as “mothership” hubs for either Matternet’s aerial or Starship’s ground drones. The vans would automate loading and compensate for the drones’ relatively limited range.
AT&T and Qualcomm this week also planned their drone trials, using Qualcomm-powered aerial drones on its LTE network to test beyond line-of-sight connectivity for deliveries and more.
The marriage of autonomous drones with advancements in auto and networking tech promises to significantly reduce the cost and complexity associated with these final-leg deliveries.