23. September 2021 | Press release

VanAssist: what the driverless delivery vehicle of the future could look like

Test vehicle shows how efficiently driverless vehicles save walking and driving distances on parcel tours. The project focus is on supporting the human workforce. Test in normal traffic planned with VanAssist vehicle

 

DPD is shaping the future: innovative solutions are required to deal with the 40% increase in the number of parcels transported annually in Germany to around 5.7 billion by the year 2025. This is why the parcel service provider is actively working on new and sustainable delivery concepts to meet the growth in demand. VanAssist is the name of a cooperative project with partners from science and industry which aims to conserve personnel resources, relieve traffic density in conurbations and promote a reduction in emissions. The result is an autonomous electric delivery vehicle.

 

During its development the partners involved focused on designing the autonomous vehicle in such a way that it can meet the constantly increasing demands on the last mile of parcel delivery. Above all the walking and driving distances involved in a parcel tour need to be optimised. Accordingly, thanks to intelligent navigation software the test vehicle is able to independently navigate to stopping points and react in real time to changes in the traffic situation.

 

The VanAssist test vehicle operates in the so-called "rendezvous mode". This means that the vehicle can cover the distance from the depot to the delivery area autonomously. The delivery driver only joins the vehicle at a predefined meeting point. Then, while the driver delivers the parcels the vehicle automatically drives to the next predefined stopping point. In this way the van is always waiting for the driver at the exact spot where he or she needs the next parcel or wants to be taken to the next address.

 

If the planned stopping point is not available, the vehicle informs the delivery driver via a specially programmed smartphone app about the alternative point where it will be waiting. The app's features also make it possible to flexibly adjust delivery routes as required. Indoor navigation has also been integrated, and quickly guides the driver to the delivery point inside the building in large office blocks or industrial complexes.

 

In future these functions will make the daily work of parcel delivery personnel much easier. They will no longer have to search for parking spaces and addresses, enabling them to concentrate fully on the actual delivery of the parcels to consignees.

 

VanAssist points to future requirements

For DPD Germany the VanAssist funding project has shown above all what developments are needed to integrate autonomous delivery vehicles into everyday operations.

"Our tests have shown that we need a control centre which can intervene whenever something unforeseen happens on the tour that prevents the vehicle from deciding on its own what to do. This could be an obscured sensor or a blocked road, for example," says Gerd Seber, Group Manager City Logistics & Sustainability at DPD Germany, adding: "We have realised that we need to fundamentally rethink our route planning. In future we will not just need to know the address to which we deliver a parcel, but also the nearby stopping points for this parcel which we can identify and store in the system".

 

For cities, too, there will be new challenges in the implementation of autonomous driving and delivery solutions.

"On the one hand we need standardised intelligent traffic lights and traffic signs. On the other we need loading zones that can be reserved specifically for delivery vehicles to which our vans can navigate," says Seber.

 

To enable further work and research on the topic of autonomous driving, as a next step the test vehicle is to be used on the road in a practical trial. So far it has only been possible to assess its performance on a university test site.

 

The project partners: 

  • BridgingIT GmbH

  • DPD Deutschland GmbH

  • Offenburg University of Applied Sciences - Institute for Reliable Embedded Systems and Communication Electronics

  • IAV GmbH - engineering for cars and traffic

  • Ibeo Automotive Systems GmbH

  • NFF, Technical University of Braunschweig - Institute for Automotive Engineering

  • NFF, Clausthal University of Technology - Institute for Software and Systems Engineering

  • University of Mannheim - Institute for Enterprise Systems

  • Project coordinator: ZENTEC Zentrum für Technologie, Start-up and Cooperation GmbH

 

 

About DPD Germany

DPD Germany is part of DPDgroup, the largest international parcel delivery network in Europe. Throughout Germany DPD has 79 depots and 7,000 Pickup parcelshops. A workforce of 9,500 and 11,000 delivery drivers are in daily operation on behalf of the company’s customers. Every year the No. 2 on the German parcels market ships more than 400 million parcels – providing carbon-neutral transport operations at no additional cost to the customer. With a number of initiatives for sustainable parcel delivery DPD is demonstrating, particularly in city centres, how parcel shipping can be made environmentally friendly and emission-free at the local level.

Through innovative technology, local knowledge and dedicated customer care, DPD provides the best possible experience for both shippers and shoppers. DPD’s industry-leading Predict service is setting a new standard for keeping customers closely in touch with their delivery, with real time tracking of their delivery, a one-hour delivery window and a range of options for redirecting parcels. In recognition of this innovation DPD Germany received several awards like the Digital Transformation Award or the UX Design Award.

As part of DPDgroup, DPD Germany has access to over 58,000 local Pickup points worldwide, and delivers to 230 countries and territories across the globe. DPDgroup’s 97,000 delivery experts work together to deliver more than 7,5 million parcels each day. The sole shareholder in DPD is GeoPost, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Le Groupe La Poste. GeoPost posted sales of €11 billion in the year 2020.

For further information, please contact

Sebastian Zeh

Specialist Public Relations & Content

DPD Germany