Autonomous containers take to the air

It might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but major parcel companies are exploring the possibility of using autonomous flying containers to replace trucks for long-distance haulage.

Elroy Air, a San Francisco-based start-up company, is in discussion with UPS and FedEx to pioneer the technology, which would use shipping containers with helicopter-style blades that operate using the same technology as drones, but in a much heavier duty form.

The idea is that the drone containers would fly to central cargo hubs, where they would be ‘landed’ onto trucks to complete the regional delivery cycle, reducing the need for trucks to cover such long distances.

“Companies that can respond and be faster and more flexible will be the winners as the logistics landscape continues to change,” said David Merrill, Elroy Air’s co-founder.

The Cargo drone companies will be among the first flying autonomous commercial aircraft, because they will initially fly in thinly populated areas where safety is less of a concern.

Elroy Air has already tested the flying containers in controlled airspace at Camp Roberts, a National Guard post in Central California. The prototype includes a detachable cargo pod that can be mounted onto a truck chassis.

“A lot of these companies like FedEx or UPS, with a fleet of aircraft to support their operations, are thinking very strategically about the long-term future of aerospace,” said Jesse Gipe, Senior Manager of Economic Development at the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. “The consensus is that a lot of manned operations eventually will move to unmanned at those companies.”

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BMW response to Transport Select Committee request for further information

At the Transport Select Committee meeting held on 26th June, BMW were asked to provide furhter information with regard to the B+ battery connector recall. In their written response, BMW gave figures on the number of cases, a summary of lessons learned, processes that had changed and the benefits they perceived from these changed processes.

In addition, BMW stated that they had identified a number of areas where they believed improvements could be made across the industry.

BMW are now working on a solution through their ConnectedDrive system and Connected App (IT systems which allow the exchange of information between BMW, the vehicle onboard computer system and/or an App installed on the Customer’s smartphone) for new vehicles that would alert customers if their vehicle was subject to a service campaign or recall (roll-out 2019).

BMW’s industry-wide recommendations for process improvements include:

  • an industry-wide platform for recalls, non-coded actions or technical campaigns. This would ensure that independent service garages could identify and diagnose such issues without the need to subscribe to a wide variety of different manufacturer diagnostic platforms.
  • improved processes for the quick transfer of digital customer data held by the DVLA (at present a disk must be downloaded and sent by post which can take up to two weeks).
  • improved access to customers via email through the collection of email addresses as part of the customer data held by the DVLA. This would give an ability to make more effective use of the DVLA database and provide information to customers (for example, symptoms of prior-warming and helpful guidance on what customers should do if they experience an issue).

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BP buys UK’s largest car charging firm Chargemaster

Oil giant BP is buying the UK’s largest electric charging network, Chargemaster, for £130m.

BP runs 1,200 petrol forecourts, but said earlier this year it expected renewable energy to be the fastest-growing fuel source.

It said the number of electric vehicles in the UK is set to grow from 135,000 at present to 12 million by 2040.

The move echoes one made last year by rival Shell, which bought car charging company NewMotion.

All leading car manufacturers are moving into electric vehicle production. Volkswagen, the world’s biggest carmaker, has said it will offer an electric version of all its 300 models by 2030.

Chargemaster, which will be rebranded BP Chargemaster, currently has 6,500 charging points and also sells electric vehicle charging points for home use.

BP said the acquisition was an important move towards the company becoming the leading provider of energy to low carbon vehicles.

For a global giant like BP, £130m is small change. But the acquisition of Chargemaster could turn out to be lucrative.

The logic is simple. Electric cars aren’t yet a very common sight – but they’re expected to become much more so.

BP itself thinks there will be 12 million on UK roads by 2040. They’ll need access to chargers.

That’s why BP says a major goal of the deal is to step up the deployment of fast and ultra-fast chargers on UK forecourts.

It said one of its goals was to speed up charging capability to enable chargers capable of delivering 100 miles of range within 10 minutes.

Chargemaster, which was founded in 2008, runs POLAR, the largest public charging network in the UK. It has more than 40,000 customers, some of whom pay by monthly subscription.

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