Strategies for Improving Smart City Logistics

Efficient, timely and accurate delivery is a necessity to retailers and logistics providers survival in an Amazon Prime world.  Cities goals of livability and sustainability means they want less trucks, congestion and pollution.  For all stakeholders to achieve their goals, the only answer is to work together.   If cities, retailers, and logistics providers work together, collaboration and digital solutions can help resolve traditional challenges of last-mile logistics and improve the livability and sustainability of cities.

How can smart cities help resolve freight management and urban logistics problems? 

  • Labeling and certification, such as allowing ultra-quiet vehicles or electric trucks to be permitted to make night deliveries
  • Traffic and parking strategies that manage local freight
  • Land use planning changes could allow jurisdictions to set guidelines for incorporating freight deliveries into new developments by requiring loading docks or loading zones
  • Consolidation schemes can alleviate last mile problems by combining pick-ups and deliveries
  • Off-hours deliveries can shift truck activity from peak traffic periods to off-hours but this requires semi-radical changes to existing supply changes and may increase noise and upset residents
  • Regulate and manage the use of drones and autonomous delivery robots from companies such as Amazon, QuiQui, dispatch, and Domino’s (DRU – Domino’s Robotic Unit autonomous pizza delivery robot)

What is being done to address this issue in the United States?

In the U.S., little has been done on the government level to address the problems faced by deliveries to business and residents within urban areas.  Some cities have begun their own initiatives to address this growing problem.  San Francisco has launched a program called SFpark which increases turnover at curbside parking spaces and has yellow zones for commercial loading.  Also, in San Fran’s Mission Bay district, a startup called QuiQui is going to soon be providing 24-hour drone delivery for pharmacy items with delivery times under 15 minutes using location-based intelligence.

The DOT’s Smart City challenge has logistics and freight management as a core element of a city’s transportation management.  This challenge solicited ideas from mid-size cities for creating an integrated smart transportation system, and the winning city of Columbus has received a 50 million dollar grant for this project.  Wyoming’s I-80 freight corridor is a site of a pilot program by the DOT for advanced vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications system.  This is the type of system that will eventually be in place in cities before intelligent transportation systems and autonomous vehicles can become a reality.

Europe Leads the Pack, and Provides Validation for Collaboration and Public Private Partnerships

In Europe, where they have higher urbanization, more aggressive goals for CO2 reduction, and the width of the streets in its older cities are less equipped to handle a rise in urban freight transport, there have been many initiatives and cities working on this issue.  The European Union has been co-funding and working together more collaboratively with cities and partners such as logistics companies like TNT and DHL, as well as, local retailers in the creation of consolidation centers and more sophisticated delivery practices.  The following is just a few of the initiatives that have been or are currently active:

LaMiLo Project – aims to create a step change in freight deliveries by fully considering the ‘last mile’ of a supply chain when planning a freight logistics journey, ensuring a more efficient and integrated logistics approach throughout North West Europe (NWE)

C-Liege – Clean Last Mile Transport and Logistics Management

CIVITAS – This project is dedicated to cleaner and better transport in cities, and over 800 innovative urban transport measures and solutions in over 80 Living Lab cities have been implemented across Europe since 2002.

Co-Gistics – consortium of 33 local authorities, logistics and freight organizations, large private companies and SMEs working towards the deployment of cooperative intelligent transport systems (ITS) services for logistics. CO-GISTICS deploys 5 services:

  • Intelligent Truck Parking and Delivery Areas Management
    • Provide real-time information on parking availability
    • Optimize truck stops on the route, queues and delivery
    • Deployed in: Arad, Bilbao, Frankfurt, Vigo
  • Cargo Transport Optimization
    • Provide real-time information on parking availability
    • Optimize truck stops on the route, queues and delivery
    • Deployed in: Arad, Bilbao, Frankfurt, Vigo
  • CO2 Footprint Monitoring and Estimation
  • Priority and Speed Advice
  • Eco-Drive Support

FREVUE – validating electric freight vehicles in urban Europe

Concluding Remarks

The more vehicles on the road, the more sophisticated the autonomous infrastructure must become.  Vehicles will communicate with vehicles in the lanes next to them, and as they approach an intersection, meanwhile traffic lights and road sensors will also be communicating with the AV cloud.  The technological, legal, infrastructure, and economic hurdles that need to be overcome suggest to me that we may be decades from widespread use of fully autonomous vehicles.  And one of the key hurdles being the time it will take build out the AV traffic cloud and logistics infrastructure sensors.

However, while it may take decades to get to fully autonomous vehicles that can legally operate in cities, the impact on logistics can occur incrementally as trucks move from one level of automation to the next. The way station on the road to full autonomy includes better Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and semi-autonomous vehicles.

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