Ford has been doing a lot of thinking about last mile delivery over the past couple of years. They've sponsored competitions to come up with innovative solutions, and they've also suggested that autonomous vehicles releasing drones might be the answer. In the end though, the most workable solutions are often the simplest. Like this: A big van full of electric bikes.
Ford are displaying their Last Mile delivery system at the Commercial Vehicle Show at the NEC this week. And it's a pretty simple concept: Drive all the stuff you want to deliver to somewhere on the outskirts, then hand over to a fleet of delivery e-bikes to get things where they need to go.
The van at the show is designed to showcase all the options, using Riese und Müller Packster cargo bikes and Tinker urban bikes, as well as electric Bromptons. What you'd actually stack in the van would be down to how much you needed to deliver and where, but there are masses of options. The van itself is a twin cab so there can be as many as seven people ready to ride when it's delivery time.
It's not just about the van: there's a logistics software package too, to work out who goes where and keep track of progress. Delivery riders can sync to the app from their smartphone.
It's great to see companies like Ford taking a sensible and pragmatic approach to last-mile delivery, even if at the same time they're doing plenty of conceptual stuff around the edges. This sort of system could work well for all sorts of deliveries, and there's nothing unproven here: we know that getting about cities is quickest and easiest by e-bike. Expect other motor companies to follow suit.