Hermes, the UK-based consumer delivery specialist, has become the first customer to take part in an early-stage autonomous delivery vehicle trial with Ford.
Ford’s new European Self-Driving Vehicle Research Program has been designed to help businesses in Europe understand how autonomous vehicles can benefit their operations. The two-week trial will use a specially adapted Ford commercial vehicle featuring sensors that mimic the look of an actual self-driving vehicle while enabling an experienced, hidden driver to ‘drive’. The research aims to better understand how other road users would interact with an apparently driverless delivery van.
The driver will play an entirely passive role, simply driving the vehicle. The delivery van will be supported by pedestrian couriers equipped with a smartphone app that lets them hail the vehicle and remotely unlock the loading door after it is safely parked at the roadside. Once inside, voice prompts and digital screens will direct the courier to the locker containing the parcels to be delivered.
The research vehicles will, says Hermes, enable it to understand how its teams could work alongside driverless vehicles, ensuring that business processes can continue safely without a driver present.
“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,” said Richard Balch, director, autonomous vehicles and mobility, Ford of Europe. “Clearly, there is no better way to identify how they may need to adapt than to experience those processes in real life.”