Given that the government has set a target to get self-driving cars on British roads within three years from now, it’s no surprise that we’re bigger and bolder steps being taken by investors and early adopters of the technology in an effort to corner the market first. One of the latest developments in this field is the promise of self-driving delivery vans, which could potentially be road ready in a matter of months.
The design was unveiled at the end of 2016 for the first time, and is currently moving from the prototype stage to larger scale production. The vans in question also offer something of a flat-pack design model, being easily assembled by one person in just four hours according to Charge, their manufacturer.
The company said they were looking for a sustainable solution since vans are unpopular and inefficient on the roads today. Since the majority of delivery vans still produce significant levels of CO2 emissions and can’t run on renewable energy sources such as electricity, the vans being produced by Charge already offer a major advantage due to being electrically powered.
However, the biggest factor here is clearly the self-driving function, and this is what generated the most interest when the trucks were premiered at Wired 2016 in London. Clearly it would be of great interest to businesses and consumers if deliveries were completely automated, removing the need for drivers to deliver parcels. It does raise the question of how exactly the packages would be offloaded and handed over to customers, however!
The software to make this possible has been developed in-house by Charge, although the plan is to launch the vans for commercial sale before adding the final version of the auto-driving software. Manual driving will still be an available option, which is currently essential since self-driving cars are not due to be legal on British roads until there is significant new legislation in place to handle the major shake-up.
In the meantime, several major vehicle manufacturers are planning to continue testing the technology. Volvo is due to conduct experiments with self-driving cars on the streets of London during this year. Other rivals are still working behind the scenes on incorporating the technology into commercially viable vehicles.