GM’s BrightDrop Partners with Seattle Companies for Zero-emission Last-mile Delivery Pilot

BrightDrop, a new business from Detroit’s General Motors Co., has partnered with the University of Washington Urban Freight Lab, the Seattle Department of Transportation, REEF, Coaster Cycles, and AxleHire to launch a zero-emission last-mile delivery pilot in Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood.
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A BrightDrop EP1 electric pallet system, which will be part of the Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub Pilot. // Courtesy of BrightHub
A BrightDrop EP1 electric pallet system, which will be part of the Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub Pilot. // Courtesy of BrightHub

BrightDrop, a new business from Detroit’s General Motors Co., has partnered with the University of Washington Urban Freight Lab, the Seattle Department of Transportation, REEF, Coaster Cycles, and AxleHire to launch a zero-emission last-mile delivery pilot in Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood.

REEF will provide the real estate for the ghost kitchen and staging area. AxleHire will provide the technology to get the packages to the end customer’s house and BrightDrop will contribute its propulsion-assisted electric pallets — the EP1 — to help optimize the movement of goods over short distances, such as from the delivery vehicle to a customer’s door.

“We see this as an opportunity to encourage people to step into a place of imagination to consider the world of delivery and logistics not as it is, but how it could be sooner than later,” says Bob Tiderington, senior manager for strategy and operations at BrightDrop. “At a time when less contact is more, BrightDrop’s EP1 is designed to help reduce package touch points, costs and physical strain on the labor force.”

The Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub will allow for last-mile solution providers to quickly test new technologies and vehicles, an important part of Seattle’s goal to reach 30 percent of goods delivery to zero emissions by 2030.

The hub is equipped with an array of sensors that provide detailed data regarding activity. Hub sensors are provided by the University of Washington’s STAR Lab, a research facility for intelligent transportation systems (ITS) theories and applications. This data will be analyzed by the Urban Freight Lab to evaluate energy reductions and provide feedback for all participants as they work to improve their products and operating models.

To reduce roadway congestion and sidewalk obstructions, REEF provides an off-street staging location where goods can be transferred from delivery vans to cargo bikes. Goods are loaded into BrightDrop’s EP1 units and the electric pallets are secured onto Coaster Cycles’ Electric Cargo Trike. Using AxleHire’s last-mile delivery technology, the driver makes customer deliveries using the fastest, most efficient routes possible.

REEF’s ghost kitchen takes orders for food delivery that might otherwise have been fulfilled by restaurants farther away from the delivery area and fulfills them in the neighborhood. The common carrier parcel locker, developed by ParcelPending and hosted by the UFL, provides delivery density for carriers (they visit one location instead of multiple addresses), and neighbors can walk to the site at their convenience to pick up packages, completing their own last mile.

“Over 60 percent of Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation, so we must change how we move around in order to meet our commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050,” says Sam Zimbabwe, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation. “Rethinking how we deliver goods is a critical part of this, so we are excited to partner with University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab and the private sector to find innovative solutions to meet our aggressive targets towards a more sustainable future.”

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