Ford exploring self-driving delivery vans

Ford exploring self-driving delivery vans

The firm is working with Hermes on its ‘faux’ self-driving vehicles

Ford has announced a new self-driving delivery van research project to explore how autonomous vehicles could help improve efficiency for couriers. 

Delivery specialists Hermes is the first business to partner with Ford, with a specifically-modified vehicle being used to understand how other road users react to an autonomous van. 

But there’s a slight caveat, and that’s that the van isn't actually self-driving, it’s just meant to look like one. That's thanks to the modified Transit having sensors that mimic those on an autonomous vehicle, while inside it features a ‘human car seat’, which is where an experienced, hidden driver essentially sits in a car seat to drive – giving the impression that there is nobody at the wheel.

Though the idea of a delivery driver is usually that they will get out and post the parcels themselves, in this two-week trial, the driver will play an entirely passive role, and only drive the vehicle. Pedestrian couriers can then hail the van using an app and even remotely unlock the doors to get their parcels. Inside, prompts guide the person to lockers to pick up the required parcels. 

Ford says the trial with Hermes will allow the firm to ‘begin designing how their teams could work alongside driverless vehicles. 

Richard Balch, director of autonomous vehicles and mobility at Ford of Europe, said: “As we plan to bring autonomous vehicles to the roads, it is important that we focus not only on enabling the technology, but on enabling our customers’ businesses. Clearly, there is no better way to identify how they may need to adapt than to experience those processes in real life.”

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