European Business: Bestmile offers a vehicle-agnostic solution for optimizing logistics. Is there really no difference between optimizing the fleet of a haulage company and that of a taxi firm, or between optimizing human-driven vehicles and autonomous ones?
Anne Mellano: The optimization of the dispatching and routing of vehicles is the same regardless of what the vehicles carry (humans or packages) or who or what is doing the driving (a human or a computer). In either case, Bestmile can optimize anything from a single fixed-route service to a sophisticated dynamic on-demand solution, in which the platform receives multiple pickup requests for people or packages to be taken to multiple destinations, and our system will make sure that missions are sent to the right vehicle in the right place at the right time.
The most common inefficiencies we see have to do with vehicle utilization. Anne Mellano
European Business: What are the most common inefficiencies you encounter when clients approach you to optimize their fleets, and how do you fix them?
Anne Mellano: The most common inefficiencies we see have to do with vehicle utilization. Public bus fleets, for example, run day and night regardless of demand. An optimized fleet can help right-size services using different vehicles at different times, or by shifting to on-demand fixed-route services when demand is low. When it comes to on-demand services like taxis, ridehailing or traditional delivery services, current models send drivers to pick up passengers based on their current locations, while they don’t take into account where the next ride request is likely to come from. This results in excess “deadheading,” when the vehicle is empty after it has accomplished its mission. Using live and historical demand data, and by processing pickup requests and destinations in real time, we can maximize in-service miles/kilometers and avoid the inefficiencies of non-optimized services.
European Business: Are there cities or countries where optimizing logistics using your solution is simpler than in other places?
Anne Mellano: Every city is different, and even different neighborhoods can have very different demands and traffic profiles. But logistics optimization is not so much about differences in place as about differences in the kind of business you’re dealing with. The challenge is to provide a platform that is flexible enough to orchestrate any type of fleet for any type of service. Every business model is different, with its own customer Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Our platform provides a foundation that mobility providers can use to design and optimize any type of service based on their business and customer KPIs.
European Business: Autonomous driving and solutions based on algorithms are often met with skepticism, especially when they rely on communicating through the internet. How vulnerable is your technology to outside infiltration, and what measures have you taken to protect your systems?
Anne Mellano: Our platform has very limited exposure to the open internet. The only data that the Bestmile platform transmits is in the form of optimized missions sent to vehicles, while it receives telemetry data from said vehicles. This information is encrypted using industry-standard protocols, which are validated by external security organizations. The platform itself (where the algorithms reside) is cloud-based and follows widely used industry-standard security policies which are regularly assessed for compliance and tested for vulnerabilities by third-party security companies.
The implementation of intelligent traffic signals, buildings, roads, and vehicles is likely to result in a steep reduction in traffic in cities. Anne Mellano
European Business: In a video on your website, you present a scenario of the seamless automated traffic of the future you envision. How significantly do you believe traffic will evolve within the next two decades and what will the most drastic changes look like?
Anne Mellano: In a scenario called “seamless mobility”, McKinsey expects 80% of mobility to be shared by the year 2020. The implementation of intelligent traffic signals, buildings, roads, and vehicles is likely to result in a steep reduction in traffic in cities. Our own analysis finds that even in today’s cities, shared on-demand mobility could reduce the number of vehicles needed to move people by a factor of 10. For this to happen, though, fleets will need to be well-orchestrated, with supply and demand matched in real time to create predictable ride times and wait times that make shared services as convenient and efficient as driving solo, if not more so. Without such an orchestration, however, traffic could be twice as bad according to one study, with autonomous vehicles circling streets empty while their owners work because “cruising” would be cheaper than parking.
Interview: Julian Miller | Pictures: Bestmile