John McNelis, Fenwick autonomous transportation and intellectual property partner and co-chair of the firm’s autonomous transportation and shared mobility practice, was quoted in a Protocol Braintrust Q&A piece that explored ways broader AV mobilization could have changed the COVID-19 response through driverless hospital transports, food deliveries, warehouse technology, etc.

McNelis noted that people under shelter-in-place orders continue to need food and goods but many are concerned about virus exposure while shopping, despite precautionary efforts taken by businesses.

“If there was widespread adoption of automated vehicles in 2020, automated delivery vehicles would be used to safely transport goods and food to people's doors without having to go to stores,” McNelis told Protocol.

“The ordered products would be loaded into a secure compartment in an autonomous delivery vehicle that delivers the products directly to the customer's house. The secure compartment would employ a touchless locking system that opens in response to the customer transmitting or showing a secure code to the autonomous delivery vehicle,” he explained.

McNelis also pointed out that the “technical challenges for developing autonomous delivery vehicles are significantly less than those for autonomous vehicles that carry passengers.”

“Autonomous delivery vehicles can operate at low maximum speeds, which reduces the complexity of operation and the risk to pedestrians,” he said.

The full article is available through the Protocol website.

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