UPS is trialling the use of a new electric and autonomous vehicle to move semi-trailers and containers in its London distribution hub.
The zero-emission vehicles from Gaussin can be operated manually or run autonomously using a set of sensors and algorithms. They include the ability to swap batteries, allowing the vehicles to work for indefinitely long periods.
The initial phase of the test will see UPS operating the vehicles manually, with drivers sitting in the vehicles to evaluate performance. Later this year the company will test the vehicles’ autonomous capabilities.
Juan Perez, UPS chief information and engineering officer, said: “These tests are part of a major UPS effort to integrate electric vehicles throughout our global network. Gaussin’s shifters will help cut our fuel costs and reduce emissions.
“We’re also eager to test the shifters in autonomous driving mode. This is a great opportunity for us to evaluate technologies on our own property.”
Carlton Rose, UPS president of global fleet maintenance and engineering, said: “Testing these electric and autonomous-capable shifters is part of UPS’s transformation strategy, which is enabled by technology and innovation.
“We continue to pursue and deploy the latest vehicle technology that has the potential to enhance our operational efficiency, while taking an evolving approach in implementing autonomous vehicle technologies.”
Christophe Gaussin, Gaussin CEO, said: “This collaboration with UPS brought valuable insights to Gaussin engineering teams, and we are pleased to see the vehicle in live operations.
“Our shifters will save maintenance and energy costs. Our unique battery swap system will allow continuous operations and will contribute to UPS’s operational efficiency and productivity increases.”
In January, UPS invested in an electric vehicle manufacturer called Arrival, committing to buying 10,000 of its vehicles. The electric vehicles will be co-designed by the two companies and purpose-built for UPS specifications. They include advanced driver assistance systems, set to be tested later this year, which may allow them to move autonomously in UPS depots.
The company is also using natural gas vehicles extensively in its fleet, which emit less carbon dioxide than diesel ones.