When people talk about how autonomous vehicles (AVs) will affect the logistics industry, it is first useful to define what they mean by logistics. Traditional vehicles, and now AVs, take part in logistics workloads across a range of industry sectors. There are vehicles involved in long-haul trucking, “last mile” delivery, and internal “logistics hubs.” Each of these three areas represents a different market, with its own characteristics and potential impact from AVs.

Gauging the market for AVs in the logistics industry

How big are these markets? Opinions vary, and everyone is in “guesstimate” mode, but a few trends are becoming clear. According to Fortune Business Insights, the market for autonomous long-haul trucks was around $1 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $2 billion by 2027. In contrast, the AV market for the “last mile” is projected to be much larger. Allied Market Research pegs the current global market for delivery AVs at $11.9 billion, with the prediction that it will grow to $85 billion by 2030.

North America is the largest market for autonomous delivery vehicles, currently at $4.8 billion, rising to $40 billion by 2030. This reflects a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.6%. “Our own market research projects that the number of autonomous trucks in the US could reach 190,000 units by 2030,” said Andrey Bolshakov, founder and chief business development officer of Evocargo, a vertically integrated logistics service based on unmanned electric platforms.

He added, “A significant percentage of those vehicles will be operating in closed areas.” The market for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), which are different but comparable to AVs, was $1.9 billion in 2019. It is projected to grow at a CAGR of 19.6% through 2027.

Understanding AV logistics trends

What’s coming for AVs in logistics? One of the most anticipated developments in long-haul AV trucking is “platooning,” which is the joining of multiple AV trucks into multi-vehicle road trains. Tests for platooning are underway in the UK. The process offers a number of advantages, including improved fuel efficiency due to reduced aerodynamic drag.

What’s likely to come first will be the use of long-haul AVs on restricted, predictable routes in delimited geographic areas. Given concerns about safety, the logistics industry will probably see AVs “mastering” certain popular routes, like Chicago to Detroit, and repeating the trips on the same road, in the same lanes. That way, the potential for accidents and mishaps falls as the number of variables in the transit comes down.

Use of AVs in closed areas

The increased use of AVs in closed areas is also a promising trend. Companies with internal logistics, such as distribution centers, warehouses, and mines, all want to deploy AVs to pick, transport, and sort items. Benefits of using AVs in these settings include reduced product damage, lower labor costs, and better productivity. However, one needs to be careful regarding any mishappening caused by the use of AV’s in closed areas. In that case, an authorization letter giving permission from the owner of the premises, to use the AV’s, should come in handy.

Service-based contracts vs. purchase

One prediction being heard in the industry concerns the way logistics companies will acquire AVs. While logistics concerns have long leased vehicles or purchased them outright on a capital expense (CapEx) basis, it is likely that the industry will see more service-based contracts for AVs. The technology is still new and relatively challenging to set up, so logistics companies may want a vendor to take care of the entire process of installation and operation. This will be procurement on an operating expense (OpEX) basis. Some refer to this as Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS).

Hydrogen is going to be the fuel
Infrastructure for refueling is a potential bottleneck affecting AV adoption in logistics. According to Evocargo’s Bolshakov, “We believe that the future belongs to hydrogen-powered unmanned trucks. Batteries for a large truck weigh much more than a hydrogen system with similar power and capacity. And, the refueling speed for hydrogen is comparable to that of conventional gasoline.” However, for light trucks inside a closed logistics hub, where distances are finite, batteries may be the preferred method of power.

Increasing safety

A consensus is building in the industry that AVs will lead to improved safety in logistics. As Maryline Daviaud Lewett and Paul Stith, Black & Veatch reported in Inbound Logistics, “It won’t happen overnight, but in the long run, AVs will help shipping, trucking and logistics companies lower their operating costs, increase efficiency and improve safety.”

Not all agree with this assessment, but the evidence is already suggesting that self-driving vehicles are already more reliable than humans. And, corporate policies and regulations are requiring ever-more stringent safety requirements for AVs compared to traditional vehicles. For sure, AVs don’t have issues with distracted or exhausted drivers and other comparable human factors that can lead to accidents.

Replacing human drivers… which is good?

Right now, the logistics industry is experiencing an inversion of the classic argument against automation right now with AVs. Historically, politicians and groups representing labor have been opposed to automation because technology replaces human workers. Today, though, the reality is that there is a serious shortage of truck drivers—a problem that does not seem to have a simple solution.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) found that the US is short more than 80,000 truck drivers. Similar problems exist in China and the EU. So, having trucks that don’t require drivers is perceived as a good thing. If AVs don’t put drivers out of jobs—because there aren’t enough drivers anyway—then the usual complaints are less compelling.


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AVs are already making an impact on logistics, but the industry is only at the beginning of what promises to be an exciting journey. No doubt that we have come far from the traditional manual car rental services and other conveniences. According to businessfinancearticles, there will be many developments that will seem obvious at the time, but which cannot be predicted at the moment. There are too many unknowns. Growth is almost a certainty in the near future. The driver shortage, coupled with the potential for economy and productivity, makes AVs a potent force in the logistics industry.

The need for vehicles in today's era can not be understated. Whether it is you leaving for a long awaited vacation or a family visiting a loved inmate in far off state, everybody is heavily relying on the provision of vehicle to function.

When people talk about how autonomous vehicles (AVs) will affect the logistics industry, it is first useful to define what they mean by logistics. Traditional vehicles, and now AVs, take part in logistics workloads across a range of industry sectors.