City goods delivery will be the biggest challenge for driverless tech, Citroën’s David McQueen told Paul Myles.

While much has been debated about personal consumer vehicle autonomy, adoption of the technology will, most likely, follow the money into commercial vehicle transportation.

Citroën’s LCV head of strategy, David McQueen, speaking to TU-Automotive at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, made it clear he believes ride-hailing services will be among the first high-profile uses of full driverless transportation. He said: “As far as LCVs are concerned it makes perfect sense to have autonomous taxis and driverless shuttles in the future.”

However, McQueen, said there were still several issues to address when it comes to delivering goods by robot.  He explained: “As far as goods transportation there is something of a question mark over autonomous because it would require a lot of technology in the vehicle at a high price point and so there would be a trade-off between what SMEs would be able to afford in the short- to mid-term.”

Naturally, large organisations with bigger fleets of vehicles would find greater economies in using autonomous LCVs. He said: “It will make sense for the bigger operators because, at the end of the day, we are know that the greatest cost of transporting goods is the driver. So, for large companies that have can afford this kind of technology, some will definitely move towards driverless systems.”

He also believes regulators in Europe are keen to continue testing the technology in real-world situations to help drive forward automotive innovation. McQueen said: “We have been the first European group authorised to do open road testing with the Citroën C4 Picasso. This was designed for the open road without any restrictions whatsoever. It will take time to assess Level 5 technology but once we at this level, we won’t need any special provisions for these vehicles to operate.”

He admitted, however, there is some way to go to envisage a LCV dealing with the sort of hurdles final-mile goods delivery will throw up especially in crowded urban environments. McQueen said: “That depends on the speed we acquire the autonomous level and also the way the different SMEs will operate. For sure, we will find autonomous vehicles before the last-mile loop, between the hubs and the bigger storage areas but, ultimately, we will also see them on the last-mile too. Yet, these cars will have to be at Level 5 autonomy to function properly in the cities. Naturally, this is going to take a bit of time.”

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