The transportation industry is comprised of service companies that mobilize people and goods or provide mobility frameworks. Each method of transport—airlines, freight, logistics, road, rail, marine, and transportation infrastructure—operates as an individual part of the transportation network. That may soon change as technology prompts advancements in the entire mobility ecosystem.
As consumers embrace e-commerce, demand for shipping and efficient transport methods rises. Recent studies reveal a strong correlation between flexible and convenient shipping methods and check-out rates—72% of the participating consumers indicated a preference for e-shops that provide flexible shipping and returns.
The transport industry is caving under the pressure to deliver a better delivery experience for the ever-expanding e-commerce clientele. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates that the shortage of for-hire drivers will reach an all-time record of minus 170,000 drivers by 2026. According to Dive, more than 2,000 properties in the U.S have been reappropriated for warehousing use during the past decade. Yet, the warehousing supply still doesn’t match urban demand.
Experts estimate that the predicted future shortage in trucking and warehouses will cause a scarcity of labor, an increase in wages and fuel prices, and a reduction in net earnings for transport operators. To overcome these new challenges and improve the efficiency of the transport industry, organizations in both the private and public sectors will need to implement new transport technologies.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to the latest trends changing today’s vehicles, such as truck platooning, hybrid electric trucks, autonomous driving, and delivery robots. We’ll show you how the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), blockchain in logistics, and AI in logistics are leveraging data to transform transport services. Read on to discover, which trend will be the next disruptor.
In this article:
- 6 Key Trends Transforming Today’s Vehicles
- Data and analytics trends moving transport forward
- Which Trend Will Be the Next Disruptor?
6 Key Trends Transforming Today’s Vehicles
1. Truck Platooning
Truck platooning uses a network of smart technologies to connect a fleet of two or more trucks. The truck at the head of the platoon acts as the parent, after which all trucks follow. Adaptive cruise control and Lane Keeping Assist Systems (LKAS) help the trucks keep track of each other and stay in-formation even while route conditions change. Artificial intelligence and autonomous technology guide the platoon through the roads, reducing cost and CO2 emissions, as trucks in the platoon maintain a safe and constant speed.
2. Hybrid Electric Trucks
A hybrid electric truck fuses the traditional combustion engine with a suite of electrical components that reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emission. Along with the electric motor, these trucks implement technologies such as regenerative braking to convert kinetic energy into electricity, and start-stop systems that shut down and start the engine as needed.
3. Hybrid Electric Bus
Even though battery-powered electric buses are highly efficient and environmentally friendly, they are too expensive to be broadly adopted. A hybrid electric bus combines the traditional fuel engine with an electric propulsion system, which results in cost-effective and sustainable public transport. Hybrid electric buses can meet the increased demand for public transport in today’s smart cities.
4. Autonomous Driving
Startups, multinational corporations, and governments are working around the world to create reliable self-driving vehicles—trucks, buses, cars, and scooters—that operate safely with no human assistance. A combination of sensors and software are implemented to control, navigate, and drive the vehicle. The main reason for deploying autonomous vehicles is to reduce transportation accidents and fill the gap left by the shortage of drivers.
Currently, the only mass-produced private vehicles with autonomous driving technology are semi-autonomous, requiring a human driver. Driverless shuttles are already deployed in several cities around the world, including Amsterdam and Columbus, Ohio.
5. Delivery Robots
Delivery robots could be the next evolution in last mile delivery. Startups are currently experimenting with LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technologies, cameras, radar, and navigation via 3D maps, but fully autonomous robots haven’t made it to the streets yet. Soon, however, many of us will open our doors to delivery robots who navigated busy sidewalks to deliver our order.
6. Drone Delivery Service
Cargo drones are a last-mile solution that hasn’t been commercially deployed yet, due to restricting regulations, public resistance, and lack of infrastructure required for daily operations. Existing cargo drones—electric or hybrid aerial vehicles with four or more rotors—can deliver packages weighing up to 500 pounds. Amazon already experiments with its own fleet of drones, and Google is actively researching cargo drones.
Data and Analytics Trends Moving the Supply Chain Forward
The transportation industry is one of the world’s most complex infrastructures. To create a seamless transport journey, everything must be connected. Consumers connect to service providers through digital marketplaces; vehicles connect to operating systems and networks through sensors and locator systems. All the while, information streams in huge volumes from multiple sources into big data analytics centers. Predictive analytics and AI generate insights that create new possibilities for transport and mobility.
Here are three trends that leverage data to transform transport services:
- Intelligent Transportation System (ITS): An integral part of a smart city’s digital infrastructure. An ITS creates interconnected transportation systems in which devices and vehicles have open communication. By managing traffic lights, toll booths, bridges, and roads, ITS can distribute transport into an efficient flow of private and public mobility. ITS takes care of many customer service tasks, ensuring that city officials are free to focus on their job, while citizens remain informed of real-time data about traffic and public transport, making commutes convenient, fast, and safe.
- Blockchain in logistics: Blockchain technology makes record-keeping secure and transparent. Information that passes through distributed databases remains logged in the chain of transactions. Advanced encryption, performed via distributed ledgers, ensure maximal protection of user data. Organizations can use the secure and transparent framework offered by blockchain technology for logging performance history and eliminate inefficiencies in logistics. They can use the data to predict and automate every aspect of the shipping journey.
- AI in logistics: Involving artificial intelligence (AI) in the supply chain can maximize resources and improve the bottom line for logistics operators. Machine learning algorithms act like human analysts that can digest huge amounts of data, scour for patterns in the supply chain, and provide logistical solutions. A smart algorithm can help logistics providers find the right mode of transport for certain shipments, determine supplier quality, forecast demand, manage production planning, and find other solutions to increase efficiency and profitability.
Impact vs Disruption - How Big Data Systems Power Disruptive Vehicle Changes
In 1995, Professor Clayton M. Christensen introduced the concept of disruptive innovation, in his article Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave. During the past twenty years, the concept has been accepted into business theory. According to Christensen’s definition, to qualify as disruptive, the technology should be more commercially attainable and cost-effective than its predecessor. While it might seem that any new technology can qualify, that isn’t the case.
Big data and analytics are making a huge difference in the entire global market. Where there is data, there’s a need for big data and analytics. In today’s digitized sphere, data is everywhere - in every industry, physical device, and cloud environment. Big data and analytics tools help organizations and government entities regain control and visibility in their digital ecosystems. However, big data and analytics tools such as ITS, blockchain, and AI, are attainable mainly for big enterprises, universities, and governments.
While these tools are too expensive to disrupt the industry, they enable and support the upcoming industry trends. If you have 50 drivers in your fleet, and you need to dispatch 100 booked deliveries, you can use data and analytics to automatically calculate the most cost-effective mode to utilize your resources. The raw materials, however, don’t change - you have the same amount of drivers and booked deliveries. The AI, in this case, doesn’t disrupt the industry, but it serves as a tool that supports your organization by helping you make the most of what you have.
Smart vehicle technology, on the other hand, is set to change the equation completely. Truck platooning, and hybrid trucks and buses are already reducing the amount of CO2 that pollutes the air. Autonomous driving is set to reduce traffic accidents and road congestion. Delivery robots and drones are expected to overcome the challenges that create bottlenecks in last-mile delivery supply chains. Once smart vehicle technology will be commercially attainable yet, it’s expected to take over the vehicles market and shake the entire economy. This disruption would not be attainable without the big data and analytics tools that take regular vehicles and turn them into smart machines.