Last-Mile Delivery and Autonomous vehicles


I've been working in and around the furniture industry since 2015 and one of the things you learn is that having firm control of last mile delivery logistics is what will make or break a furniture company.

It's not price or fashion or anything like that, though those are important. It's really delivery logistics. The reason American Furniture Warehouse is so successful is because it's a logistics company that also sells furniture.

The idealized transport system is on demand that can travel on surface roads. We've largely solved long range mass travel with public transportation. Where this falls apart is between the public transit stop and the home.

I would argue that whomever can solve the last mile problem for human logistics will win the market for autonomous vehicles.

I can imagine a “swarm” of autonomous vehicles that only operate within X miles radius of a metro stop. The “swarm” of these cars all communicate with each other and have a running map of the area. If they are being used they go to the riders destination within some boundary. When done they return to the station and get in queue. They pick up riders along both ways, up to X riders. Uber and Lyft already have enough information to know how to schedule multiple stops.

A couple of questions come up: What is the number of vehicles required to operate in the boundary to ensure there is burst capacity, and wait times are minimal?

My guess is that this is what Uber and Lyft want to eventually do: Own the public transport market. Everyone wants a piece of the government market.

That's a bad idea.

Governments should be investing in creating their own public autonomous last mile human delivery systems.


Other thoughts on transportation:

If you look at human transportation like all other logistics, what you find is that every household is running a logistics operation.

Some outsource all or portions of the operation to government entities (public transport, school busses). Some have formed cooperatives (carpooling, ride sharing). The majority of households though run all operations in-house and outsource the maintenance.