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Dinner party delivery drones – what’s it all about?

Ford's Autolivery: the future of goods delivery? (Photo: Ford)

Ford reveals concept for a fully autonomous delivery vehicle that also acts as a hub for drones.

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Ford reveals concept for a fully autonomous delivery vehicle that also acts as a hub for drones.

Visitors to the Ford exhibition at the Mobile World Congress last week did not expect to be invited to a dinner party - but that they were. And while they may have left hungry, the entertainment was hopefully worth it.

The automotive giant used VR headsets to showcase their new Autolivery concept which, according to Ford, "imagines electric self-driving vans used together with drones to pick up and drop off goods and packages in urban areas."

Visitors were put in the shoes of a dinner party host awaiting the imminent arrival of guests. The problem was, the host was missing a crucial ingredient for the meal. The solution? Autolivery. The host simply places an order via a smartphone app, before the package is loaded onto an electric self-driving van and delivered by drone to the apartment's balcony.

It's all part of Ford's vision of the "City of Tomorrow" which envisions the affects that automated driving could have on our urban environments. More specifically, it's a response to the Last Mile Mobility Challenge: one of many challenges laid down by Ford to employees, entrepreneurs and startups to develop innovative mobility solutions for urban areas. The "last mile problem" describes the inefficient transportation of people or goods from a nearby hub to the final destination. In the context of goods delivery, it's more like the last 15 meters problem. And that's where the drones would come in.

The concept would see self-driving vans transport everything from groceries to medical supplies on the ground and then drones would fly the final leg to reach destinations that are otherwise inaccessible - e.g. high up in a tower block.

"Ford has at its heart a culture of disruption and innovation designed to come up with solutions that put people first, to save them time, money and aggravation, and also to make our cities easier to navigate and better to live in," said Ken Washington, Vice President, Research and Advanced Engineering, Ford Motor Company.

Indeed, this seems to be true. Just look at the company's recent $1 billion investment in AI, not to mention its patent application for a rolling movie theatre. It also wants to have tens of thousands of driverless vehicles on the road by 2021. The Autolivery concept certainly supports the notion that Ford, under CEO Mark Fields, is moving in the direction of mobility provider - and obviously not just for people.

Read the full article on Engadget here.

Read the Ford news piece here.

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