Delivery of things

Another delivery robot company – this one operating at scale in Europe and making campus deliveries in the Valley. Starship raised $25m in June 2018. Runs on paths and sidewalks. No hints in the demo videos about how interacts with opposing direction bicycles and scooters.  Ideally something like this would be able to enter buildings and control lifts for campus deliveries. 

Commercial package delivery launch announcement (Oct 31 18) – in Milton Keynes now, and the SF Bay area before the end of the year.

Venturebeat review 

Transportation futures talk – 21 Sept 18


London Internet Exchange, LINX, London 1

I’m due to do a talk at the Institute of Directors in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh on the afternoon of Friday 21st September 2018, as part of the Scottish International Week. Sign up here

It will be a review of the current excitement in the Valley around #micromobility, and an exploration of parallels between data packet transport and people and thing transport.

Urban transport – Bird and Lime


On Los Altos Avenue

Interesting to see the occasional Lime ebike in Los Altos – the nearest Lime bike location is posted as in Mountain View. No sighting yet of their Segway scooters.

For several years we tracked the increasing frequency of Teslas, and then an increasing variety of electric cars, on the streets in Los Altos. It seems like it’s almost time to do the same exercise, but for electrically assisted single person transport. Not all of them have two wheels, nor do they all have pedals. Segway sell a single wheel Ninebot. Lopfit walking bikes from Denmark have made it to Palo Alto.

These tie back into the Transportation as a System question – which company is best placed to gain scale by putting together solutions to the transportation requirements of people and things ? These personal scaled devices are part of the solution, and the travel pattern data they create have value, as indicated by the recent funding rounds. GV (was Google Ventures) led a $250m round for Lime in early June. Sequoia Capital led a $300m round for Bird (scooters) later the same month.

Updating, July 9th – the latest GV round also involves Uber, and has gone up to $335m.

Collecting background references consumer surplus funded by VCs
Italian modular cars for China for services
Lime bikes –
Street flow rates/capacity for cars v bikes/scooters
Bird scooters funding explanation
Electric walking bike

Moving things

More on Transportation as a System, prompted by an article in Ars Technica.


Autonomous vehicles for local delivery don’t need drivers; they can be smaller and lighter, slower, and at least as safe as US postal trucks.  The key to making this possible is to incent customers to collect their deliveries –  from the vehicle as it arrives, or from the nearest locker or pick-up point which can be reached by walking, perhaps with a small luggage trolley. In the US ‘rural’ post service puts letters in letter boxes which are on the street, not through your front door – but FedEx, UPS, and USPS leave packages on the doorstep.

Scheduling the delivery vehicle to arrive just when it’s convenient for the person collecting the packages to come down to the street from their multi-story building is the same kind of problem as arranging a Lyft pickup.

Solving this ‘last 50 feet’ issue of package delivery by getting the customer to fetch their packages for everything under certain sizes and weights will be much cheaper than trying to build robots to do the same job, and does not require an outside person or company to have access to the home (Amazon Key).

Amazon and Alibaba are likely to dominate global logistics; they have detailed knowledge about what their customers buy and can make supply chain predictions in order to get goods started on their journey prior to receiving specific orders. They are in a position to benefit hugely from building the overall integration of the systems for transporting goods.


Nuro self driving goods vehicle 

Adding AMA reddit thread by  Dave Ferguson from Nuro

Transporting people like IP packets


Transportation as a Service might be better thought of as transportation as a system; the items to be transported are people, and things.
An Economist special report, ‘Reinventing Wheels ‘, from early March 2018, discusses autonomous vehicles, urban planning, and possible changes in how people live, while ignoring a significant part of the overall transportation system ; there’s very little mention of pedestrians, and no mention of bicycles. This ignores the actual flexibility in the system if it allows for people to walk or bicycle for part of their journey. There are many urban and suburban trips where the time to drive and park a vehicle exceeds the time to walk or cycle the same trip.
Contrast this with ‘tim in Graz’ (Austria).
“At selected public transport stops, the tim locations, the Graz Lines bundle additional mobility services as a supplement to public transport:

  • e-car sharing
  • conventional car sharing
  • rental car for longer distances or long-term use
  • e-taxis with exclusive stand
  • public charging stations for private electric cars
  • bicycle parking

This offer makes it easier to dispense with your own car because it makes it easy and convenient to access a car when needed. You can also park your own e-car at the e-charging station and change to bus or train. Bicycle parking makes the change from the bike to public transport comfortable.”
Being able to change, at a location for which there is a business model that scales up, between different modes of transport is going to be important to the improvement of frequent, flexible, movement of people. Amazon, FedEx, DHL and the other shipping companies use this model for moving things.

TIM – Graz, Austria