It could even use 'autonomous robots' in the future.
Ford is trialling a new digital delivery service which will efficiently coordinate multiple modes of transport.
With package deliveries set to double in the next decade, couriers are under increasing pressure to deliver more parcels in tight timeframes.
Ford's new system, which is being developed with Gnewt by Menzies Distribution – which operates the largest fully electric delivery fleet in the UK with more than 70 electric vans – will incorporate a number of different methods of transport, including by foot and bicycle.
During the system's trial, Gnewt’s 'last‑mile' delivery service will make use of Ford’s intelligent cloud‑based, multi‑modal routing and logistics software, MoDe:Link. The software manages all aspects of parcel delivery from depot to its final destination, making a much more efficient system.
Not only that, it will also offer a better experience for customers thanks to reduced costs and an improvement on those dreaded delivery windows.
"We want to change the way we think about moving goods around our cities," said Sam Clarke, founder and head of business development, Gnewt. "We are keen to understand how multi‑modal deliveries can benefit our business, our customers, and – by promoting active travel and the associated health and environmental benefits of walking and cycling – our employees too. We are delighted to be working with Ford and helping to trial its revolutionary new software solution."
Not only is it providing the software for the trial, but Ford will also supply vans which are being dubbed 'Warehouses on Wheels', and will act as dynamic delivery hubs that collect orders from a depot and then briefly stop at strategic locations determined to be the most efficient for each batch of orders.
Ford’s software then coordinates with nearby foot or bicycle couriers, or even drones or autonomous robots in the future, to complete the journey. The concept that the American manufacturer has devised will be compatible with vehicles from other manufacturers.
Ford says that the multi-modal system of one van and a team of four couriers on foot or bicycle could be used to deliver the same number of parcels as five individual vans.
"Our goal is to keep larger vehicles like delivery vans operating in the high‑load, less‑congested environments in which they perform best," said Tom Thompson, project lead, Ford Mobility. "However, for the last mile of a journey into an urban area, where congestion and lack of parking can be a challenge, it makes sense to offload deliveries to more nimble, efficient and cost‑effective modes of transport."