Trucker 489 Googleselfdrivingdeliverytrucks

Google self-driving delivery trucks coming this way?

Feb. 10, 2016
Just when you thought Uber-for-trucking or drones might someday shake up freight and delivery, guess what? Google wants to send self-driving trucks sporting a locker-type storage system to bring a package to your door.

Just when you thought Uber-for-trucking or drones might someday shake up freight and delivery, guess what? Google wants to send self-driving trucks sporting a locker-type storage system to bring a package to your door.

The Internet search and apps giant was awarded a patent Feb. 9 for its application carrying this descriptive title: "Autonomous Delivery Platform." To be sure, the patent application notes that the technology "relates to delivery systems" and is not some unexpected release of a self-driving truck Google has been keeping under wraps.

However, that's where the company indicates it intends the technology to go. In the patent application summary, Google states that the now successfully patented technology "includes methods, computer program products, and systems for autonomous delivery of packages."

As described in the application, these self-driving Google trucks would be a last-mile delivery system. The self-driving truck would have one or multiple storage lockers/ compartments on its trailer that would be securable, and that could be accomplished via a personal identification number (PIN) pad.

The compartments could also have card readers to allow for payment acceptance. And Google doesn't necessarily just want to bring this truck to your door: in some instances, according to the patent application, the self-driving truck could receive "dynamically updated" location information such as GPS info from a person's smart phone.

In other words, Google envisions that this autonomous delivery system could get a package not to your doorstep, but directly to you — or at least where your smart phone, tablet or similar device says you are.

What exactly would this theoretical system, should the enabling technology come to be, actually deliver? Everything from junk mail to packages, it seems: "The technology can be used for all types of delivery, such as advertising circulars and direct-from-merchant goods (for example, pizza delivery)," the patent application reads.  

Google describes an example use where a package needs to be delivered. The sender could charter a compartment on one of these Google trucks — which are referred to as "autonomous delivery platforms" — that is operating in the area needed for the delivery. The recipient could access the compartment and get the package perhaps by entering a PIN code, swiping a credit card or just getting close enough to the secured compartment with his or her smart phone or similar device, i.e., "a near-field communication (NFC) identifier of the addressee's mobile communications device."

The Google patent follows on the heels of others envisioning delivery system innovations such as Amazon's concept of using 3-D printers onboard trucks to make products on the way to their destination or drone-based last-mile delivery.

About the Author

Aaron Marsh

Before computerization had fully taken hold and automotive work took someone who speaks engine, Aaron grew up in Upstate New York taking cars apart and fixing and rewiring them, keeping more than a few great jalopies (classics) on the road that probably didn't deserve to be. He spent a decade inside the Beltway covering Congress and the intricacies of the health care system before a stint in local New England news, picking up awards for both pen and camera.

He wrote about you-name-it, from transportation and law and the courts to events of all kinds and telecommunications, and landed in trucking when he joined FleetOwner in July 2015. Long an editorial leader, he was a keeper of knowledge at FleetOwner ready to dive in on the technical and the topical inside and all-around trucking—and still turned a wrench or two. Or three. 

Aaron previously wrote for FleetOwner. 

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