One of the challenges in logistics is the so-called last mile. Proposed solutions to this are often associated with a high expenditure of resources and are also difficult to plan. Thus, this TITUS project focuses on a new approach to managing the last mile in the logistics sector.
The last mile as a challenge for autonomous systems
There are already various concepts for handling the last mile in the logistics process. These include autonomous robotic platforms that deliver parcels to the doorstep. However, due to the low speed of these autonomous SAE level 4 vehicles, these concepts usually fail because of the long distances from the logistics centre to the delivery area.
An autonomous convoy follows a manned lead vehicle
To overcome the problem of the last mile, the idea of the project is to virtually couple autonomously operating robot platforms into a convoy guided by a crewed vehicle. To implement the virtual coupling, image-based methods are combined with car-to-car communication to recognise the respective predecessor unambiguously. The fusion makes it possible to cover long distances at high speed and approach several destinations simultaneously by automatically leaving the convoy in the delivery area, regardless of the convoy’s position where a robot platform is located.
After leaving the convoy, the robotic platforms operate autonomously to fulfil their defined mission (e.g. delivery of the goods). Subsequently, the robotic platform drives to a meeting point and waits for the convoy to attach itself to the end of the passing convoy.
An emergency management system takes over via teleoperation if a vehicle has to leave the automatic mode due to system errors or unresolvable operating situations.