• John Ennis

Eye on AI - June 14, 2019


Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!



This week's news focuses on advances in autonomous delivery systems, with significant consequences for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. The reasons these advances are so significant is that, as the efficiency of delivery systems increases, brands which have direct relationships with their consumers - including direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands such as Warby Parker - will have the inside track in marketing and retail.

To set the context for our discussion, we begin by recommending this excellent overview article on the likely impact of artificial intelligence on retail from EY. Of particular interest to us today is the discussion of D2C found in Chapter 4. Even so, this article contains several other valuable insights, in line with the idea that AI will make life more human by automating many of the less creative or expressive aspects of life, so I would recommend a review of the entire article if you have a few minutes to go through it.


Okay, with that context set, let's begin our review of what was an exciting week of news in the realm of autonomous vehicles!


First, Volvo demonstrated its autonomous truck solution, called "Vera." Volvo plans to operate Vera between a logistics center to a port terminal in Gothenburg, Sweden, at low speeds on a route that contains a stretch of public roads. As the reach of Vera and other related technologies expands, expect a significant reduction in global shipping costs. Read more about Vera directly from Volvo, and watch the video below to see Vera in action:



Next, Ford announced their partnership with Agility Robotics to develop a symbiotic relationship between delivery robots and self-driving cars. As Dr. Ken Washington, CTO of Ford, writes on Medium:


"Ford is teaming up with Agility Robotics to explore a brand-new frontier in the world of autonomy — and a new way of thinking about how we make deliveries. Together, we will work toward making sure self-driving vehicles are uniquely outfitted to accomplish something that's proven surprisingly difficult to do: Carry out that final step of getting your delivery from the car to your door."

Watch Agility Robotics' solution, Digit, here:


Yes, I agree it's strange a human packs the package even though robots deliver it.


Next, following on similar news from Google and Amazon, Uber announced its intention to have drone-delivery service operational this summer through its Uber Elevate program. According to Bloomberg:


"The company (Uber) is betting that customers will demand drones for the time savings and eventually, price savings. For a delivery 1.5 miles away, ground transportation averages 21 minutes; drones can make the trip in about 7 minutes. Uber Elevate is planning to unveil its own customized drone this year, reaching speeds up to 70 mph. The company is also bullish on vertical takeoff-vertical landing vehicles for people—and predicts you'll be tapping an Uber Air button on your smartphone by 2023."

Not to be left out of the delivery excitement, Target announced an increased integration with their 2017 acquisition, Shipt, to provide same-day delivery from Target.com. According to TechCrunch:


"Target is ramping up its same-day delivery efforts, following news of Amazon's plans to increase Prime speeds and Walmart's recent launch of free, next-day delivery in select markets. This morning, Target announced it's making it easier to shop its same-day selection directly from its website, with the deliveries powered by Shipt."

Putting all of this news together, expect to see the line between online and offline continue to blur, with consequences for those who rely on an increasingly outdated retail model of purchasing.


Not so fast!

Before we go, for a thoughtful counterpoint to all of this "last mile automation" news, please see this opinion piece by Matt Beane, professor of technology management at UC - Santa Barbara, in Wired.

That's it for now. If you'd like to receive email updates from Aigora, including weekly video recaps of our blog activity, click on the button below to join our email list. Thanks for stopping by!


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