Editor's choice
26 Jul 19

Top 10 last-mile and urban mobility innovations

What can you do to make your last mile more efficient and less cumbersome? You can start by having a look at these 10 innovative solutions for the last mile of people and goods. Many are made possible by technological advancements, but some are surprisingly low-tech.

1. Delivery robot

Starship Technologies is a company that builds and operates small deliveries for food and package deliveries. Its robots are lready operational in Milton Keynes (UK) and at George Mason University (Virginia). Many other companies are developing similar robots, and Starship Technologies itself has entered into a collaboration with Mercedes-Benz Vans.

Pictured on top: Starship Technologies delivery robot

2. Bike leasing

Swapfiets gives you a bicycle at a fixed monthly rate. Do you have a puncture? Just give them a call and they come to fix or replace your bike. Swapfiets is already available in cities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Denmark. A conventional bike is yours for under €20 per month, an electric bike (only in selected cities) for around €75. Many other companies, including traditional leasing companies, are also offering bike leasing.

3. Delivery in car boot

Nothing can beat the convenience of shopping online. Deliveries remain a bottleneck, but that could change if Skoda gets its way. The Czech carmaker is working on a project to enable couriers to deliver parcels to your car boot. Jaguar Land Rover trialled a similar scheme in 2017 and Amazon already offers the service to owners of certain Volvo and GM vehicles in the US. In most cases, couriers get access to the vehicle’s boot through an app. They cannot open the other car doors and they can only access the boot once, within a predefined time frame. It’s not mainstream yet, but your next car might very well have it. Or at least the one after that.

4. Taxi app

Uber is of course best known, but it is not available everywhere, and it is sometimes more expensive than official taxis. However, taxis in more and more cities across the globe can nog be ordered through apps as well. One of the bigger taxi apps is Free Now, a part of the BMW/Daimler mobility joint venture. Free Now is particularly useful in cities where you don’t know the language and you want to avoid useless detours.

5. Drone deliveries

Various companies are working on passenger drones, but we won’t be seeing them any time soon in commercial operation. Drone deliveries, however, are already a reality. Seat uses them at its Martorell factory, ZF is doing the same at its factory in Friedrichshafen and parcel delivery companies are starting to embrace them, too. People in Reykjavik, Iceland, can have meals delivered by drone, for instance.

6. First-class train pass

Forget about cars or mobility budgets - why not offer your staff a first-class train pass? The Dutch railway operator NS offers a yearly first-class train pass that people can use between any two destinations, any time of the day. “A train is a means of transport that goes from a place where you not to a place where you don’t need to be,” you say? They’ve got that covered, as you can take a shared bike, a bus or a tram for the rest of your journey.

7. Cargo bike

Congestion charges and the high price of parking can motivate people to look for alternatives to car ownership. The same can apply to vans. Cargo bikes offer a useful alternative for inner city deliveries of goods, but they can also be used to carry shopping, to bring small children to their day-care centre, to carry tools etc. Available with electric assistance or conventional chain-driven, on two wheels or three, there's one to fit everyone's taste and needs.

8. Electric moped

Forget about e-scooters. They generate safety issues, the sustainability of the business model can be questioned and they clutter pavements. Leading e-scooter company Bird recently added the Cruiser, an electric moped, to its lineup. Its bigger wheels make it a safer, more stable way of getting around, and its sturdier construction could make for a more viable business model.

9. Expanding door

So you can have your parcels delivered in your car, but what do you do if you don’t have a car? Have them delivered in your door. Yes, in your door. The American start-up eDOR has come up with a way of having expanding compartments that delivery drivers can open to safely store your parcels while you’re away. Everything should be safe and secure thanks to state-of-the-art technology, but we can think of one or two practical problems that stand in the way of large-scale adoption. Just one that comes to mind: once one of the compartments has been expanded, how can you still open your door if it is close to a wall?

10. Stay where you are

One of the most valuable urban mobility strategies is quite simple: don’t go anywhere and stay where you are. Work from home or from a co-working space. It’s not exactly a ground-breaking new insight, but it deserves a place in contemporary mobility policies. Technology is available to access computer networks from anywhere in the world, meetings can easily be taken online.

Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck