I read a post, What Autonomy Delivers, by Jonah Houston, and it lays out some scenarios for how autonomous technology could be applied to what I’m going to call micrologistics.
Micrologistics is the activity of moving someone’s personal items around a city so they’re there when you need them and they’re safely stored when you don’t. Most people use their car for micrologistics. They can throw their stuff in the back seat or trunk and, usually, retrieve or swap items as needed.
Having a trunk is a luxury of driving that is difficult to replace. For those without a car, you gotta carry the stuff you need for your trip with you most or all of the time.
If we expect people to stop driving so much, we need to provide micrologistical solutions. Cities might be able to help by facilitating staffed “bag checks” in commercial centers. Portland has piloted this service for houseless people, why not provide it to everyone and let those with means pay for it? And while we wait for the little robots that Jonah describes to move our stuff back home, some entrepreneurs might use lightweight freight (like electric cargo trikes) to let you send your bag to a storage unit closer to home where you can pick it up later.
Such services could support local businesses facing steep competition from Amazon and other logistics companies. Retailers demand ample parking because their customers need to haul things back home. Shopping in person and getting the goods delivered sometime later in the day is a model I don’t see much, but really appeals to me. Micrologistics can smooth the way for removal of street parking for transit priority lanes and scooter racks.
And maybe once people get used to not carrying all their stuff, they’ll become more comfortable with owning less stuff, too. Rental and sharing services can utilize the micrologistics networks to put lawn chairs under the butts of festival goers and camping gear into the trunks of intrepid families’ peer-to-peer car rentals.