Autonomous automobiles have been the topic of many supply chain and logistics discussions over the past several months. Driving is an important part of my life. I am often on the road with my car in my role as Director of Business Development, crossing the Dutch/German border on a regular basis. Therefore, I am concerned – but also curious – about the consequences autonomous automobiles and the associated “smart” technologies will have on our daily routines. I suppose the majority of people I share the road with are mainly worried about the safety conditions the self-driving cars offer.
But it is predicted that self-driving vehicles will reduce the number of accidents. Underlining this theory, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over 90 per cent of car accidents are caused by human errors. But still: Can I trust technology more than myself? The technology may not even fail, but sometimes in life, not everything is predictable. This year, Google´s autonomous car had his first accident involving injuries.
Last month in Mountain View, California, one of Google´s driverless cars was faced with a situation that happens every day on public streets: a pedestrian crossed the street in a crosswalk. The car did what it was supposed to do – it stopped and allowed the pedestrian to cross the street. The problem: there are still other cars operated by humans, not controlled by technology. So, the end of the story is, that the pedestrian was safe, but Google´s car was hit from behind by a human-driven car.
The systems currently used by Google and other automakers are so mature that the cars can easily monitor the road in all directions, even better than a human could. This is ironically one of the biggest hurdles to full implementation of autonomous vehicles. The cars are, in a sense, too safe and are challenged by traffic situations in which humans do not always behave by the rules.
Despite the safety concerns, I would truly enjoy making my trip across the German/Dutch border in an autonomous car. Even better would be the use of geo fencing during my trip! As part of the Internet of Things, self-driving vehicles can offer a lot of additional comfortable services to their passengers. For example, by connecting with other smart devices, like your future smart home, the car can create an alert when it passes an area around your house defined by geo fences. This geo fencing technology allows users to draw zones around certain areas. This way, the smart vehicle can trigger a specific function when crossing the geo fence. Hence, you can come home and the lights or the air conditioning will already be turned on. So imagine me, being driven by my autonomous car to work, using geo fences on the way, which trigger my coffee machine once I am 5 kilometers from my destination, and boots-up my computer once I cross the 2 kilometer fence!
While my autonomous car with geo fencing capabilities remains a dream, this geo fencing technology is already a reality in the logistics industry and has proven to be quite a successful innovation.
Audi uses geo fences for quick check-in of delivery trucks
Audi recently started a pilot project that uses geo fencing to coordinate its trucks and inbound material at its factory in Ingolstadt, Germany. Last year, the carmaker won the Volkswagen Group Logistics Innovation award for its geo fencing project called “Quick Check-In”. A simple smartphone app which implements GPS technology is used to track the location of delivery trucks. The trucks can easily check-in the material at the plant due to the connection of the geo fencing technology to Audi´s control system. This simplified process massively reduces paperwork, as the truck can directly enter the plant and move to the docks or the adjacent logistics center to deliver its cargo. This way, the increasing number of deliveries – Audi receives about 650 trucks per day at Ingolstadt alone – can be handled more efficiently, saving the company up to 30 minutes per truck. In the daily operations, the geo fences are used at three distances from the plant and trigger different processes:
- 50 kilometers: automatic timetable adjustment to see if the truck is on time and if the delivery will arrive in Ingolstadt according to plan.
- 20 kilometers: automatic time check to match the truck´s position with the plant´s logistics planning schedule.
- One kilometer: automatic booking of the material´s status from “in transit” to “in plant”.
This avoids further processes upon a truck´s arrival and trucks are able to move directly to the unloading docks.
In conclusion, and in my opinion, geo fencing is an innovative technology that has the potential to enable different innovations. I am not sure how much of my autonomous car dream will come true, but the reality is that the logistics industry is already profiting from geo fencing. As the Audi example clarifies, this technology can drive the progress of new logistics concepts focused on resource efficiency and the reduction of waste.
Do you have any other examples of the effective use of geo fencing or autonomous vehicles? How do you currently manage inbound and outbound logistics?