Top 3 Driverless Delivery Methods

At FSTEC, president of consumer electronics group talks door to door without people

WASHINGTON -- As convenience-store retailers ponder home delivery in an age of Amazon Prime and Uber, Gary Shapiro discussed futuristic ways to offer door-to-door service that bypasses people altogether.

Gary Shapiro

Speaking before about 500 attendees at Winsight’s FSTEC conference in Washington, the president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, Arlington, Va., said that beyond the go-to pizza-delivery guy or even more sophisticated routing methods coming from Seattle-based Amazon or San Francisco-based Uber, three potential delivery methods are emerging that avoid live drivers altogether.

  • Drones. Shapiro said drones have hurdles in terms of air-traffic concerns and disruptions at airports, but can provide strong potential for package delivery, especially to areas where poor roads and infrastructure block shipments of necessities like food and medicine. Drones, today come in three versions, he said. One is high-tech drones that governments use for combat; a second is for commercial use, mostly by farmers, architects and safety officials to survey large land masses or complicated structures; and third, consumer drones that hobbyists use for fun.
  • Driverless cars. Automated cars equipped with collision-avoidance systems can be a boon for the elderly or people who are too drunk or sleepy to drive safely, he said. Fewer crashes could have a ripple effect on the insurance industry, car-repair shops and lawyers suing for damages.
  • 3-D printing. From car parts to artificial limbs, 3-D printers have the potential of disrupting manufacturing and supply, providing access to custom-made products that once were too costly to build. Shapiro said people in Asia are testing robotic kitchens where 3-D printers use sugar to produce food products like wedding cakes.

In addition to naming these potential delivery methods, Shapiro talked about the importance of innovation. Essential to driving such activity would be government support in the areas of regulation and incentives, he said.

Internally, businesses would have to foster cultures of innovation, where “failing fast” was a cardinal rule, as well as the idea of “creating your own competition” and the larger spirit of entrepreneurship. Those cultures produce more flexible companies, ones focused on solving problems, he said.

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