Autonomous delivery vehicles (ADV) have emerged as a potential game-changer in the logistics industry, with the ability to improve efficiency, sustainability, and cost savings. Spain, while in the early stages of ADV development, has significant growth potential in this industry. In this article we will analyse the current state of the ADV market in Spain, including the applicable legislation and regulation, examples of pilots and test-beds, existing players, market potential, and challenges and opportunities facing the industry.
Autonomous delivery vehicles in Spain
Spain was lagging behind other European countries in terms of testing and commercial deployment of ADV, however Madrid has just given green light to the largest sandbox in the EU, and the third in the world after California and Beijing.
A technological and urban mobility revolution is currently unfolding in the vibrant heart of Spain's capital city, an extraordinary hub that pioneers the testing and fine-tuning of technological solutions before their widespread adoption. Created under the visionary initiative of the Área Delegada de Innovación y Emprendimiento, this groundbreaking project is set to reshape the mobility landscape of Madrid and establish the city as an indisputable global frontrunner in technological innovation.
Despite the unclear commercial deployment, several companies are currently investing in pilots and test-beds throughout the country at different development rates.
The regulatory framework for ADV in Spain is still under development, which has led to a lack of clarity regarding applicable regulations and compliance requirements.
The Spanish Ministry of Transport is responsible for regulating the use of ADV on public roads, and the regulatory framework is expected to be completed by 2024.
Meanwhile, ADV operators are subject to existing regulations such as those related to vehicle safety, insurance, and data protection.
Pilots and test-beds
Despite the lack of a clear regulatory framework, several ADV pilots and test-beds have been launched in Spain.
The logistics company Correos and technology company Nuro launched a pilot project in which ADV were used to deliver packages in a designated area of Malaga in 2020.
In 2021, the supermarket chain Carrefour and technology company Starship Technologies launched a pilot project in Madrid, where ADV were used to deliver groceries to customers.
These pilots have demonstrated the potential for ADV to improve the efficiency and sustainability of last-mile delivery. More recently, city of Madrid has authorised the establishment of a 20 km² sandbox in the Villaverde District, designed to provide a genuine testing ground for mobility-related products before their commercialisation.
The project has captured the attention of prominent companies like Goggo Network and GLOBALVIA, who intend to carry out trials of food trucks, delivery robots, and drones within the sandbox.
The objective of the city is to create a more flexible regulatory environment that can promote testing, hasten development times, and curtail bureaucracy.
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Several operators are actively pushing forward the ADV market in Spain, including Nuro, Starship Technologies, TeleRetail, and Goggo Network.
Nuro and Starship Technologies are US and UK-based companies that specialise in ADV technology and have already partnered with Spanish companies to carry out varios pilots.
TeleRetail, a Swiss-based company, has also partnered with Spanish companies, including online retailer Cooltra and logistics company Logisfashion, to carry out ADV pilots.
Goggo Network, a Spanish start-up, has announced that it will conduct pilot tests with autonomous vehicles for food truck delivery.
Although Clevon is making significant strides in the development of its unmanned delivery robot, it's worth noting that the company has yet to prove pilots recorded in Spain as per the time of publishing this article. Nonetheless, the Estonian start-up has become a trailblazer in autonomous driving technology, clocking over 40,000 kilometers with their vehicles since receiving a permit to operate unmanned vehicles on public roads in 2020.
Starship Technologies, a UK-based company that provides ADV for last-mile delivery. In 2021, Starship Technologies partnered with Carrefour to launch the ADV pilot project in Madrid.
The R2 has been tested for four years, and it includes customised features such as a more durable and larger body with compartments, including refrigerated ones, to ensure the temperature ranges from -5°C to more than 45°C.
Goggo Network, the start-up founded by Jazztel creator Martin Varsavsky, has announced that it will carry out pilot tests in Spain with autonomous vehicles for food delivery and autonomous food trucks.
TeleRetail, a Swiss company that provides ADV for last-mile delivery partnering with several companies in Spain to carry out ADV pilots, including the online retailer Cooltra and the logistics company Logisfashion.
Valuation of the market potential
The ADV market in Spain is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, and the country is expected to be a significant portion of the overall European ADV market.
According to a study by EY, the European ADV market is expected to reach €4.4 billion by 2025. Although there is no specific market value for ADV in Spain, the growth potential is tangible, and the development of a clear regulatory framework will be critical to the future of the industry.
Challenges and opportunities
The ADV market in Spain faces several challenges, including regulatory uncertainty, public acceptance, and technological limitations. The lack of a clear regulatory framework for ADV creates uncertainty for operators and may slow down the adoption of this technology. Additionally, some members of the public may be skeptical of ADV and may prefer human delivery drivers. Finally, ADV technology is still relatively new, and there are limitations in terms of range, payload capacity, and navigation in complex environments.
Despite these challenges, there are also significant opportunities for the ADV market in Spain. ADV have the potential to improve the efficiency and sustainability of last-mile delivery, reduce traffic congestion, and create new business models and revenue streams for operators. Furthermore, the development of ADV technology could lead to the creation of new jobs in areas such as software development, engineering, and maintenance.
One of the key advantages of ADV is their potential to reduce emissions and improve sustainability. ADV are often electric or hybrid vehicles, which emit less pollution than traditional gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles. This can help to reduce the environmental impact of last-mile delivery and improve air quality in urban areas.
Another advantage of ADV is their potential to improve the efficiency of last-mile delivery. ADV can operate around the clock, without the need for breaks or rest periods, which can help to reduce delivery times and increase the number of deliveries that can be made in a given period. This can lead to cost savings for operators and faster delivery times for customers.
ADV can also help to reduce traffic congestion in urban areas. By operating autonomously, ADV can navigate through traffic more efficiently and avoid congestion hotspots. This can help to reduce the number of delivery vehicles on the road, which can in turn reduce traffic and improve air quality.
Despite these advantages, there are also potential drawbacks to the use of ADV. One concern is the potential for job losses in the logistics industry, as ADV could replace human delivery drivers. Additionally, there are concerns about the safety and security of ADV, particularly in areas such as navigation and cybersecurity. ADV operators will need to ensure that their vehicles are safe and secure, both for their own operations and for the safety of the general public.
In conclusion, the ADV market in Spain is still in the early stages of development, but it presents significant growth potential. The development of a clear regulatory framework, along with successful deployment of ADV pilots and test-beds, will be crucial to the future of the industry.
Companies operating in the ADV market in Spain must adhere to the relevant legislation and regulatory requirements to operate safely and securely on Spanish roads. Although the market presents significant opportunities for improving the efficiency and sustainability of last-mile delivery, several challenges must be addressed, including regulatory uncertainty, public acceptance, and technological limitations.
As the technology continues to advance and more ADV are deployed on Spanish roads, the logistics industry is poised for a significant transformation.
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