Hermes begins parcel delivery per robot

A robot developed by the company Starship Technologies for parcel delivery company Hermes can be seen in Hamburg, Germany.

One in five transport business leaders believe there is considerable potential for the use of robots working in the industry within the next decade.

A report from the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) found that jobs in transport and distribution, finance, accounting and the media are most likely to be automated over the next 10 years.

In the UK, 13% of employers think more than 30% of jobs will become automated.

The estimates of high impact automation vary widely by sector, but in transport and distribution 21% of business leaders think current employment roles could be undertaken by machines.

The report said: “Even more so than retail, logistics is thought to be on the verge of an automation revolution.

“Approximately 40,000 robot units were shipped to warehouse and logistics businesses worldwide in 2016 – a figure that is expected to jump to 620,000 by 2021.”

It said Amazon is leading the way, with a constant focus on making efficiency savings in its “sprawling supply chain”.

However, the RSA also said that the technologies currently available were incomplete and had limited functionality.

It added that humans were likely to remain in place for last mile deliveries and that it was likely there would be the emergence of machines that collaborated with human trainers and operators.

It cited US company Starsky Robotics, whose vision was of “remote drivers to take the reins of the vehicles in the final furlong of delivery”.

Sally Gilson, FTA head of skills, said the technology presented the industry with an opportunity, but that robots “still can’t handle goods with the same dexterity as humans”.

She added: “It is unlikely that we will see fully automated vehicles introduced on the UK’s road networks in the foreseeable future, not least because of its complexities and the need for a qualified driver to take control at key points.

“In addition, drivers will still be needed to take care of the loads. There is an opportunity for young people to develop the logistics industry of the future, and we will be engaging with thousands of them at this year’s Skills Show to discuss the opportunities which the industry offers them now and in the future.”