Walmart & Cruise Join to Unlock Green Self-Driving Cars
On Tuesday, Nov. 10th announced their team up with , an automated car production subsidiary of (GM), in an effort to not only achieve their zero-emissions goal by 2040 but be one of the first companies to employ self-driven cars in their delivery process.
Cruise specifically has been working with GM to develop software to make GM’s Chevy Bolt electric vehicle fully autonomous. With a planned investment from GM of US$14mn to expand Cruise operations back in 2017, it seems to be paying off, following their recent team-up with Walmart.
Walmart isn’t even the first company to take this tactic either, with announcing in early 2019 that they’re testing autonomous delivery robots, dubbed the “Amazon Scout”, a six-wheeled robot that moves at pedestrian speed to spear-head their fully-electric delivery system.
While this isn’t the first time that Walmart has stretched its proverbial legs into the autonomously driven carpool, with partners like robotics company , back in the tail-end 2019, it’s clear to see the advantages of such a strategy in a world still very much dealing with COVID.
So, what does this mean for supply chains? Well, there are clear advantages to having autonomous delivery vehicles, especially when they’re all run by electricity, such as reducing the human-error aspect that is essentially unavoidable in any part of the delivery process. Even outside of the context of a world still on the back-foot of a global pandemic, the notion of self-driving vehicles has always been sought after by companies across the board, as the final delivery stage is, arguably, one of if not the most important part of the supply chain.
While this particular announcement is linked specifically to the more commercial side of deliveries, and at perhaps the perfect time historically speaking, it does potentially set a precedent for other companies to step-up, and for the world to recognise that greener, more efficient and cost-effective methods of delivery are the future.
If developments like these become more common-place, we may see highways dedicated to autonomous delivery, and the landscape of commercial vehicles as a whole shift toward this new self-driven delivery experience, but with the legality of these vehicles and the reliance on technology continues to be focal points of discussion above all else, we may be a little ways off just yet.
DHL Claim Multi-Sector Collaboration Key to Fighting COVID
Since January, global logistics leader DHL has distributed more than 200 million doses of the COVID vaccine to 120+ countries around the globe. While the US and UK recently rolled out immunisation plans to most citizens, countries with less developed infrastructure still desperately need more doses. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which currently has one of the highest per-capita immunisation rates, the government set up storage facilities to cover domestic and international demand. But storage, as we’ve learned, is little help if you can’t transport the goods.
This is where logistics leaders such as DHL make their impact. The company built over 50 new partnerships, bilateral and multilateral, to collaborate with pharmaceutical and private sector firms. With more than 350 DHL centres pressed into service, the group operated 9,000+ flights to ship the vaccine where it needed to go.
With new pandemic knowledge, DHL just released its “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience” white paper, which examined the role of logistics and supply chain companies in handling COVID-19. As Thomas Ellman, Head of Clinical Trials Logistics at DHL, said: “The past one year has highlighted the importance of logistics and supply chain management to manage the pandemic, ensure business continuity and protect public health. It has also shown us that together we are stronger”.
Multisector partnerships, DHL said, enabled rapid, effective vaccine distribution. While international scientists developed a vaccine in record time—five times faster than any other vaccine in history—manufacturers ramped up production and logistics teams rolled out distribution three times faster than expected. When commercial routes faced backups, logistics operators worked with military officers to transport vaccines via helicopters and boats.
In the UAE, the public-private HOPE Consortium distributed billions of COVID-19 doses to its civilians as well as other countries in need by partnering with commercial organisations such as DHL. For the first time, apropo for an unprecedented pandemic, logistics companies made strong connections with public health and government.
“While the race against the virus continues, leveraging the power of such collaborations and data analytics will be key”, said Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer DHL and Head of DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. “We need to remain prepared for high patient and vaccine volumes, maintain logistics infrastructure and capacity, while planning for seasonal fluctuations by providing a stable and well-equipped platform for the years to come”.
How Do We Sustain Immunisation?
By the end of 2021, experts estimate that we need approximately 10 billion doses of vaccines—many of which will be shipped to areas of the world, such as India, South Africa, and Brazil, that lack significant infrastructure. This is perhaps the greatest divide between countries that have rolled out successful immunisation programmes and those that have not. As Busch noted, “the UAE’s significant investments in creating robust air, sea, and land infrastructure facilitated logistics and vaccine distribution, helping us keep supply chains resilient”.
Neither is the novel coronavirus a one-time affair. If predictions hold, COVID will be similar to seasonal colds or the flu: here to stay. When fall comes around each year, governments will need to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible to ensure long-term immunisation against the virus. This time, logistics companies must be better prepared.
Yet global immunisation, year after year, is no small order. To keep reinfection rates low and slow the spread of COVID, governments will likely need 7-9 billion annual doses of the vaccine to meet that mark. And if DHL’s white paper is any judge of success, multi-sector supply chain partnerships will set the gold standard.