The development of autonomous delivery vehicles will revolutionize the consumer e-commerce environment, creating a new product delivery ecosystem over the next 20 years, according to a study released this fall by tax and advisory firm KPMG LLP.
The study forecasts a fulfillment system rooted in artificial intelligence and robotics, in which orders for goods are placed, received, communicated, then delivered via a fleet of autonomous vehicles to what the company refers to as "islands of autonomy"—metropolitan markets with unique mixes of consumer living, working and travel patterns that will require localized, tailored delivery services.
"E-commerce has been a tremor, but autonomous delivery vehicles now represent an earthquake of a magnitude not seen before," said Gary Silberg, KPMG's automotive sector leader. "With the push of a button, consumers will have their orders fulfilled far more efficiently than ever could be imagined because autonomous delivery will use cloud computer networking, natural language processing and artificial intelligence to deliver their orders at an unprecedented rate. For consumers, the delivery experience will go from next day to same day to next hour to even next minute."
Lower cost of delivery, accelerating fulfillment demand and a reduction in the number of personal vehicles in use will drive a "monumental change in consumer behavior," according to the study authors, and will transform automobile and transportation industries in key ways. Most notably, the study predicts that autonomous delivery vehicles will travel more than 78 billion miles per year by 2040. The authors emphasize the need for companies to develop local strategies for serving consumer needs in this new environment.
"Future delivery and retailing markets must be analyzed and developed locally if a business wants to excel," said Tom Mayor, KPMG's strategy lead for industrial manufacturing. "The winners will undertake, 'island-by-island' analyses of metro markets to understand residential densities, shopping patterns and the resulting, localized consumer time-and-convenience sensitivities that will determine the likely mix of next-day, same-day, same hour or 'get-it-myself' shopping. As a result, shopping and last-mile logistics will never be the same."