There Once Was a Van that Swallowed a Drone….

Date: Sept. 19, 2016

Tapping the Power of Combined Technologies

Companies that combine two cutting-edge technologies are discovering some surprising benefits and possibilities.

Uber and Self-Driving Google Tech = Self-Driving Cabs . . .

You’ve read about this experiment that is now taking place in Pittsburgh, where Uber and Volvo have partnered to field a fleet of self-driving SUVs.

When the project launches, the cabs will have human attendants who make sure that everything is operating correctly. In the future that could change. You’ll order an Uber, and an unmanned taxi will arrive and take you to your destination. Now Lyft and GM are following suit in a cooperative program called Express Drive.

Sometimes, two combined technologies add up to more than the sum or their parts. You can read about it in a recent article in Forbes. 

Self-Driving Vans and Drones = Better Automated Deliveries . . .

As you probably know, is developing delivery drones that can pick up packages at warehouses and fly away to deliver them. That’s pretty exciting technology. But because the effective delivery range of a drone is quite small, it makes sense to send them off in a van that serves as a home base for deliveries. This two-part strategy could dramatically extend the range of automated drone deliveries.

And it’s happening. Mercedes-Benz has just invested $562 million, and created a 200-person research team, to figure out how to equip self-driving vans with autonomous flying drones.

You can read all about this project in  “Mercedes-Benz Looks to Link Connected Vans with Drones; $562 Million Investment,” a recent post by Chuck Martin on

Working in concert, vans and drones could add up to a fully automated package-delivery system . . .

  • At a warehouse, the vans will be packed with up to 180 packages to be delivered in a particular city or neighborhood.
  • The vans will then drive to the location and park.
  • Inside the vans, a conveyer-like system will position packages, one at a time, so they can be picked up by a drone.
  • The drones will pick up packages one at a time, fly away to deliver them, then return to the van to pick up additional packages to deliver.

What Other Combinations Are Possible?

We don’t know for certain. But in New York City, a young entrepreneur is now renting out yellow cabs through Airbnb and letting people sleep in them. The cost? A mere $39.00 a night, far less than the cost of even the cheapest hotel room in the city.

Is this mix-and-max business whose time has come? We don’t know, but you can read about it and decide for yourself. 

To Explore Further . . .

If you’d like to learn more about the future of driverless cars, you might be interested in attending our upcoming Driverless Cities Summit, to be held from October 26-28 in San Mateo, California. The Summit will highlight the latest activities of regulators, modern designs for smart city planning, cutting-edge tech and applications for connectivity, and paradigms for allocating funding.