Chris Lattner, who is joining Tesla as its new VP of Autopilot software, recently told the hosts of Accidental Tech Podcast that he wants to: “accelerate the path to cars being appliances that solve people’s problems”.
“I’m personally not the kind of guy who loves doing oil changes and fiddling around with them. I just want something that is reliable, that works, ideally drives me everywhere I want to go, and I don’t have to think about it” he said. “It’s solving my problems, it’s not something I have to care for, feed and maintain. That’s the way I look at cars.”
This is an interesting concept, that we can relate, in broader terms, to the world of retail and the last-mile sector too. Customers dislike having to intervene on processes that should make their life easier, not more complicated.
In retail, apart from the now obvious victory of eCommerce over traditional high-street shops, we’re witnessing a golden age of facilitating innovations: Amazon, which started with its patented (soon to be ex) one-click buy, is now pushing new solutions to the market, from physical and virtual Dash Buttons to its voice controlled Echo, who lets you shop without even using your hands. And let’s not forget the brand new Go Store in Seattle (soon to be in London too?).
After the items leave the retailer's warehouses, smartphones and mobile apps, which enable customer-centric last-mile solutions, are too becoming a new species of “delivery appliances”. Think about it: no more than three/four years ago you, the customer, had to take care of all issues surrounding the shipping of items to your address.
You had to remember the estimated delivery date, because if the shipping was delayed no-one warned you. When items got lost: you had to search for the courier’s phone number and try to locate them, ricocheting for hours from one office to the other. No control was conceded over the delivery date or hour. Returns were a pain and lockers a far flung fantasy.
Nowadays smartphones, coupled with innovative services prompted by last-mile startups (Milkman included), can literally become your mailbox, a very light house appliance that warns you if a problem arises and lets you push a button and solve it.
Mr. Lattner went on by saying: “Keep in mind the goal is to drive better than a human, and significantly better than a human”.
This might be the future of last-mile logistics: using technology not to replace but to empower humans (a self driving car needs a passenger to justify its existence, doesn’t it?) towards an absolutely friction-free, fluid, one-click manageable shop-to-home experience.
No more complicated than putting your dirty dishes into a dishwashing machine and retrieve them clean a few minutes after.