Hermes, consumer delivery firm, will become the first customer to take part in an early-stage autonomous trial with Ford in Oxford.
Ford’s new ‘European Self-Driving Vehicle Research Programme’ has been designed to help businesses understand how autonomous vehicles can benefit their operations. The partnership aims to make city deliveries more efficient and sustainable in the future.
During the two-week trial, a specially adapted Ford commercial vehicle featuring sensors that mimic the look of an actual autonomous vehicle will take to the roads, with an experienced hidden safety driver controlling the van.
The research aims to better understand how other road users would interact with an apparently driverless delivery van.
Lynsey Aston, head of product, innovation and onboarding at Hermes UK, said: “We’re excited to collaborate with Ford on this proof of concept trial, which is all about understanding the potential for autonomous vehicles and if they have a role in delivery in the longer-term future.
“We’re constantly innovating to incubate and then explore concepts like this, and we look forward to the initial findings, which will no doubt be useful on an industry-wide level.”
Pedestrian couriers will support the delivery van equipped with a smartphone app that lets them hail the vehicle and remotely unlock the load door after it is safely parked at the roadside.
Once inside, voice prompts and digital screens will direct the courier to the locker containing the parcels to be delivered.
Richard Balch, director of autonomous vehicles and mobility at Ford of Europe, added: “As we plan to bring autonomous vehicles to the roads, it is important that we focus not only on enabling the technology, but on enabling our customers’ businesses.
“Clearly, there is no better way to identify how they may need to adapt than to experience those processes in real life.”