Auto Manifesto

February 16, 2008

Revolutionary Pizza Delivery

We’re eventually going to see a whole new class of autonomous vehicles. They won’t have drivers, they won’t carry people. Because of that they can be small, and will serve a variety of different purposes.

One example is a delivery vehicle. We’ll use the example of a pizza delivery. Currently it’s done by people driving cars. Let’s say the average delivery trip is five miles round trip., the average car weighs 3,000 lbs, and the driver another 175 lbs. The mass of a pizza and the box by comparison, is maybe two or three pounds. The weight of the objects used to deliver the pizza is about a thousand times the weight of the pizza itself. We’re going to move about 3,200 pounds 5 miles to deliver a couple of pizzas. Not very efficient.

What if an autonomous delivery drone delivered the pizza? The customer places the order and pays electronically. Then the pizza is made and put in with a batch of pizzas for other nearby customers. The drone then goes and delivers each of the pizzas, dispensing the correct one at each stop. The pizza parlor could track the progress of the vehicle and always have real time data about where it is, when it will be at which destination, and how much power it has in reserve should the itinerary change. If there’s a need for human intervention beyond using a telephone, on-board audio/video capability would likely be used to interact with customers.

If the drone weighs 200 lbs and does the same exact trip as the car example above, it’ll require only about 1/16th of the energy – and no driver. Plus it won’t take up nearly as much space as a car, and the transportation network it travels on will be vastly more efficient. Your pizzas will arrive much more consistently because delivery times would be much more precise.

This is just one example of the life changing technologies that will occur. I haven’t even begun to explore the concept of personal drones for running errands autonomously, or as a gopher to guide or follow people around while serving them. The information revolution will drastically alter the physical world in many ways.

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