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Primed for Deliveries

Rapidly changing e-commerce trends and technologies mean big changes for land-use and infrastructure planning.

By Lisa Nisenson

Once regarded primarily as a segment of transportation, freight and deliveries are increasingly commanding attention from a wider range of planners, government officials, and policy makers. The rapid rise in e-commerce deliveries and online food and grocery orders is driving many cities to develop a range of strategies to control curbside congestion. E-commerce impacts, however, extend far beyond the curb.


As stores race to reduce order fulfillment time, consumers expect quicker and quicker turnarounds. Over the past six years, Amazon has been quietly working toward a goal of delivering online product orders within 30 minutes.

That goal won’t be realized by increasing the speed of warehouse workers and delivery trucks. Instead, retailers like Amazon envision an entirely new supply chain powered by state-of-the-art technologies and automated delivery systems. Transportation technology companies are responding to the opportunity with new product lines like automated delivery vans, delivery robots, and aerial delivery drones.

Early technology pilot programs provide a glimpse into this delivery future. Starship Technologies and George Mason University sponsored a pilot of 25 delivery robots on an 800-acre Virginia campus. After collecting two months of data, researchers found a surprising trend: an uptick in students ordering breakfast…

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