Delivery Wars 2016: Driverless deliveries, drone drop-off and the return of pedalling posties

Head of Customer Research | ParcelHero

Deliveries will be the new retail battleground in 2016, with delivery choice as important as price for many consumers.  Powering these delivery wars will be driverless vans, delivery drones… and the return of old-skool pedal-power.

Your doorstep parcel collections and deliveries will be transformed over the coming year.  Deliveries will become the battlefront, with customer-friendly delivery options ranking as important as price for many consumers.  New technology will increase customer choice of when and where your items are delivered, and you could even find your packages delivered by drone or driverless truck!

This year will see a transformation in the way we send and receive parcels and deliveries.  We believe seemingly ‘sci-fi’ delivery methods are nearer than most people think.  Driverless deliveries may sound like something out of I Robot, but in fact will be happening in London this year.  Greenwich’s streets will soon see the eerie sight of driverless vans operating a predetermined route, moving parcels between either warehouses and shops or stores and homes.

The vehicles will be autonomous, and may serve a large distribution centre and the O2 Arena.  However, whilst control of the vans is entirely automatic, ParcelHero expects there will be a person in the van to ensure the operation runs smoothly and to take control in the case of an emergency.

As well as driverless vehicles, drones could appear in UK skies far sooner than has been previously predicted.  Aviation regulations are now holding back their introduction just as much, if not more, than technology issues; and the UK government has been quick to support Amazon’s trials.  Last year Amazon approached the UK government about developing drones in the UK to deliver items here; as it felt America’s Federal Aviation Authority rules had hindered their development.

Transport Minister Robert Goodwill confirmed: “We're working with Amazon, and government is working on the whole issue of drones…We're both keen to innovate.  Amazon came to see me to ask about starting drone trials in the UK because regulations in the US were too restrictive.  So much for the land of the free.”

And in December 2015 Amazon boss Jeff Bezos revealed: “One of the regulatory agencies that's moving fastest on this is the UK, so it's possible that drone deliveries will start first in the UK.”

Perhaps the sky really is the limit for deliveries in 2016.

Alongside all these hi-tech innovations, we will also see the return of old fashioned pedal power for deliveries.  The Royal Mail controversially phased out postie’s bikes in 2014, and the famous red Pashley Mailstar cycle found itself re‘cycle’d.  Ironically, this ‘modernisation’ came at a time when the green delivery movement is growing; and cargo bikes will become increasingly popular with operators for last mile deliveries – particularly in cycle-friendly towns and cities such as Cambridge.

The next generation of cargo bikes can carry parcels as well as mail, and – thanks to a change in the law last year – heavier cargo bikes can now be fitted with electric assistance without being classified as motor vehicles.

ParcelHero, and its quality delivery partners UPS and DHL, also plan to be involved in many other technological developments: such as increased green urban deliveries using electric vehicles, and radical new approaches to click & collect.  This will be the year technology delivers for parcel senders and internet retailers.