A Closer Look at The Challenges of Optimizing Routes for Autonomous Vehicles for Deliveries

Challenges of optimizing routes for autonomous vehicles
Featured image credit: Scharfsinn86/istockphoto.com

Autonomous vehicles for deliveries will soon become mainstream. In fact, even though fully autonomous vehicles (AV) are yet to arrive, partial AVs are already mainstream in the form of cruise control and braking assist.

But, the development for fully self-driving vehicles is on full steam with over $80 billion already invested in the development, according to a report by Brookings Institution. Also, several AV startups and even behemoths like Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger have already started testing AVs for delivering groceries. Ford even invested $1 billion in testing an autonomous pizza delivery vehicle in Miami in partnership with Domino’s.

So, since fully AVs are not here yet, why is everyone going gaga about the technology? Well, reports say that self-driving vehicles could deliver goods cheaper and faster — within an hour or two of ordering in some cases — and will have a major impact on consumer behavior.

How accurate is that prediction? What if a self-driving vehicle has to deliver a large number of units? Can it still make deliveries faster to all the destinations? Can it accurately avoid zones? Many questions remain about route optimization for AVs for which we need to find answers before implementing autonomous vehicles for deliveries.

Below, we take a detailed look at the challenges of optimizing routes for driverless vehicles.

Limited Power Range

Long distance travel is one of the biggest challenges of autonomous vehicles for deliveries. Although it is still unclear how much electricity self-driving vehicles will use, most experts agree that just the onboard equipment could consume up to 2,500 watts per second, depending on the vehicle’s configuration. This power consumption problem was highlighted in a report published by the University of Michigan Center for sustainable systems.

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Bloomberg also indicates that current prototypes for fully autonomous driving systems consume the equivalent energy of 50 to 100 laptops, citing supplier BorgWarner. This translates to 2 to 4 kilowatts of electricity which, in a modern car, makes it 5-10% more difficult to meet fuel economy and carbon emission targets.

The problem is that battery technology is currently not only inefficient, but also lacks storage capability which limits the range of vehicle operations. Also, the distance an electric vehicle can travel in a single charge varies greatly between different makes and models. In addition, the limited range of a few hundred miles per charge does not take into account the energy needed for the onboard sensors, computers, and transmitters that autonomous vehicles for deliveries will require. So, today’s driverless vehicles are not able to transport consumers going on long road trips, especially since the cars must be recharged at specific charging ports and it can take time to complete each charge.

However, you can overcome this challenge by going for route optimization software. Such software offer a custom-shaped avoidance zones feature that helps you optimize routes in such a way that your AVs will travel through a specific zone by avoiding high-traffic areas and accident-prone intersections to cover the maximum number of routes without losing much power. Most importantly, this feature also helps you avoid areas with high crime rates so that you do not need to worry about protecting your vehicles from theft. In this way, you can improve both the efficiency and security of your routing activities.

Want To See For Yourself How Route4Me Can Boost Your Profits?

Whether you want to slash the time it takes you to plan routes for your drivers, increase the number of stops they can make, or keep your customers satisfied knowing that your drivers show up on time… Route4Me helps you achieve that!

Inefficient to Distribute a Large Number of Units

Autonomous vehicles for deliveries typically cannot fit a lot of units and will only be able to deliver three to five units at one go. So, what if you have 100 to 5,000 units and need to distribute 20,000 units? You will have a total mess.

One way to overcome this challenge is by adopting routing optimization software to optimize the routes for your driverless delivery vehicles. When you have multiple units, each unit takes up capacity with each item having different dimensions. Routing software can factor in all these constraints, while planning and distributing the routes. So, it can ensure that all your self-driving vehicles are optimally balanced, for example fitting in two large units in one car, while assigning five small units to another.

Advanced route planning software like Route4Me also come with multiple parameters, such as the maximum pieces per route to set a limit to the number of pieces a vehicle can carry as well as the maximum weight and volume per route to set the weight and volume constraints for each vehicle.

Planning Routes with Weight Advanced Constraint Add-On

Traveling through Traffic

Using autonomous vehicles for deliveries makes sense if you are delivering in the countryside or cities with low-density areas. But, what if you need to deliver during peak hours in Manhattan or Chicago? Can you imagine what a mess that could be? The traffic could be even worse due to the introduction of AVs.

So, you need to ensure that your autonomous vehicles do not travel through high-density areas and do not get stuck due to bad weather, left turns or U-turns. Doing this manually may be impossible. This is why it is best to use a route planner. Route planning software can help you optimize routes for thousands of stops in less than a minute with almost 100% accuracy. It also factors in traffic, weather, and other constraints. In this way, your autonomous vehicles will not get stuck, deliveries will be made on time, and your customers will be happy. Remember, AVs have a limited power range and so you need well-optimized routes.

To learn more, watch our webinar on how Route4Me can plan routes for 5,000 addresses.

Zero Protection from Theft

Vehicle theft has always been a major headache for field service and delivery businesses. According to the FBI, a whopping $6 billion was lost due to vehicle theft in 2017. And, with the introduction of AVs, theft may not go away either.

Luckily, you can mitigate such issues with GPS tracking software as a GPS tracker helps you track vehicle locations in real time. So, if any vehicle moves out of the specified zones in an odd time, there could be a sign of potential theft and you can easily identify that. Doing the same kind of tracking manually will not be possible.

We also recommend going for a route optimization software that comes with a GPS tracking feature so that you do not need to buy two solutions, while you can get the best of both worlds with one solution. The good news is that Route4Me can help you with that as well.

So, what is your opinion about optimizing routes for autonomous vehicles for deliveries? Do you think AVs can lower delivery costs? Do you have any questions? Please feel free to leave your comments below.

Want To See For Yourself How Route4Me Can Boost Your Profits?

Whether you want to slash the time it takes you to plan routes for your drivers, increase the number of stops they can make, or keep your customers satisfied knowing that your drivers show up on time… Route4Me helps you achieve that!

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