John Naughton: Forget driverless tech – white-van man will keep on trucking | John Naughton

The prospect of fully automated road deliveries from Amazon et al seems appealing, but it’s far from inevitable

On holiday in Venice recently, I found myself thinking a lot about driverless trucks. This may seem strange, because there are no trucks in Venice. Instead, everything is delivered by boat. At 6am every morning, for example, a large, broad-bottomed boat turned up and moored outside the small supermarket across the bridge from our hotel. The driver (or should I say captain?) then used the onboard crane to lift out heavy pallets of bottled water, boxes of provisions etc on to the quayside. Delivering the necessary supplies in this way took at least 30 minutes, after which he gunned the engine of the boat and headed off to make his next delivery.

Later that particular day, walking along the Grand Canal, we came across another large boat, this time emblazoned with the logo of DHL, the international couriers. The boat was piled high with cardboard boxes and two guys with clipboards were trying to sort out what needed to be delivered where. It was clearly a slow and painstaking process.

The trouble starts when the vehicle has to leave the motorway in order to reach its final destination

Related: Self-driving cars will only work when we accept autonomy is a myth

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