DPD unveils research paper on autonomous parcel delivery vehicles

DPD unveils research paper on autonomous parcel delivery vehicles

DPD, fka and ika have published a joint research paper which looks at how autonomous driving could transform the parcel delivery market. The three research partners – fka’s full name is Forschungsgesellschaft Kraftfahrwesen mbH Aachen) and ika is RWTH Aachen University’s Institut für Kraftfahrzeuge – concluded that in the future self-driving vehicles could “make it possible to deliver at least part of the company’s parcel volumes with an unprecedented degree of flexibility”.

DPD said that autonomous vehicle technology could also “enable entirely new delivery concepts, in particular for inner-city areas” – but cautioned that “the legal framework for the application of such revolutionary delivery concepts will probably not be in place until the year 2025 at the earliest”.

“Automated, self-drive vehicles represent a megatrend which in future will have a significant effect on everyday life and work,” said Professor Lutz Eckstein, Head of the Automobile Institute at Aachen’s RWTH University.

For the parcel market, too, we can envisage possible applications which will make parcel shipping even more convenient and offer greater efficiency in inner-city deliveries. However, in terms of the legal framework it will still take many years in this sector of industry before driverless vehicles can be used for commercial purposes in Germany to a major extent.

Philipp Anhalt, Director Strategy & Business Development at DPD Germany, added: For DPD as a leading international provider of parcel and express services it is essential to keep up to date at all times with the consequences of technological developments on our market. In this context new mobility concepts, in particular those featuring autonomous technology, offer significant potential. On the other hand we don’t expect the last mile to become fully automated. Human delivery personnel will continue to play a prominent role here in future, too. However, in the long term we could imagine a new premium segment of the market, in which we make use of fully autonomous vehicles to offer a new degree of delivery convenience.” 

The research paper concentrates on last mile parcel deliveries, and describes five possible scenarios using autonomous delivery vehicles:

  • transport by self-drive vehicles to the delivery area
  • autonomous parking in the city centre
  • autonomous mini transporters in the inner city
  • mobile pickup stations (using a combination of a driverless delivery van and automated parcel lockers)
  • consignees controlling the place and time of delivery of a driverless parcel transporter by app.

In its statement about the research paper, DPD said that is already “continuously testing further concepts for intelligent inner-city logistics, including the use of fully electric or hybrid delivery vehicles”.

DPD added that is “currently also involved in a field trial covering so-called ‘micro depots’ in the inner-city. This pilot project, which is being run by Nuremberg’s University of Applied Sciences, is testing decentral parcel distribution points in combination with alternative forms of transport such as delivery bikes.”


The Winter 2016 edition of the Mail & Express Review includes a special focus on autonomous driving technology. MER Editor Ian Taylor gives an overview of the subject and Professor Nick Reed, Academy Director at the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory, shares his views on how automated vehicles could bring significant changes to the traditional operating models for the logistics, postal and delivery sectors.

Click here for more information on how to subscribe to MER. Digital subscriptions are free, and a subscription to the Print magazine costs €100 a year.

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