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On electric and autonomous vehicles

Image Source: Daimler AG

Mercedes is experimenting with a “multimodal” drone-van to support same-day delivery and last-mile logistics. This is an interesting experiment in the supply chain area and is achieving progress. Meanwhile, Ford’s Autolivery concept, a different but related vision combining autonomous electric vans and drones, suggests how innovation and re-imagination can potentially broaden the range of transportation and delivery options. At the same time, Mercedes Vision Van, Land Rover Discovery, Ford’s Autolivery concepts, and GM's Cruise Anywhere, among others, offer a glimpse of potential industry transformation consistent with the trend towards autonomous vehicles: auto industry manufacturers seem to be experimenting with or considering innovative business models focused on service mobility to leverage or account for the potentially disruptive autonomous technologies.

As one of the biggest investors in autonomous technology and robotics research, China continues to experiment with autonomous technology applications. As part of the Alphaba project, a small fleet of self-driving public buses, with capacity for 19 passengers, has started running on the roads of China's tech district of Shenzhen, Guangdong. Somewhat similar to the control systems of the PRT pods at West Virginia University, in the next phase, the Shenzhen Bus Group intends to add the capability to analyze peak passenger traffic periods, so that buses can automatically adjust their dispatch schedules to match demand. For now, as Uber’s or Tesla’s self-driving vehicles, there is still a driver in position for safety.

Simultaneously, the era of the digitized truck is coming. It was exciting to see what Tesla is bringing to the table in terms of all-electric semi-truck, likely for short haul operations - at least initially. After Amazon, J.B. Hunt and Wal-Mart, DHL and Fortigo Freight Services are adding to the tally of Tesla's electric truck pre-orders. A lot of uncertainty surrounding the technology, but some high-profile pilot programs.

Taking risks and breaking the rules; one of the key traits of industry disruptors.

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