Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and Hermes launch parcel delivery voice assistant project

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Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and logistics firm Hermes have launched a pilot project with tech startup Neohelden to optimize the delivery of parcels and help delivery staff with their work in the UK.

As part of the project, Neohelden has adapted its voice assistant – Neo – to meet the challenges in the parcel delivery business and support drivers during their everyday shifts. The ‘conversational interface’, which will eventually work in dozens of languages, will be able to link together the existing IT systems, such as databases, CRM systems and infotainment screens.

Delivery drivers will be able to see and hear what’s coming up during their rounds, have all orders to hand displayed as a list, and select the next delivery by touch or voice command. If they wish, they can have the system read out the most relevant details about the next delivery, such as recipient name, address, type of delivery, any particular place where the parcel should be left and any preferred neighbor to leave it with.

Thanks to voice control, the delivery staff member is also able to ask for further details about each item on the job list. The aim is to save a considerable amount of time in the area of the delivery address and to ease the challenging workload, especially at times of high parcel volume, rush-hour traffic or in unknown locations.

Lynsey Aston, head of product, innovation and onboarding at Hermes UK, said, “Our network of over 27,000 couriers are working hard to deliver ever-increasing volumes driven by the natural growth of e-commerce. On top of that, the pandemic has seen our volumes soar to more than 630 million parcels over the last year and we’ve grown our teams and network of self-employed couriers, which has meant a lot of new starters to onboard, fast. Anything that helps us do this quicker and supports our couriers in delivering more safely and efficiently is really important, so we’re excited to be part of this trial in partnership with our Innovation Lab team.”

As one of 180 entrants from all over Europe in the Future Logistics Challenge run by Hermes and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles to find the most promising solutions in the areas of ‘delivery driver experience’ and ‘smart delivery vehicles’, Neohelden came out top alongside a project from startup Viscopic. “The challenge lies in developing helpful apps like this for the existing everyday delivery routine and for existing electronics infrastructure in the vehicle and on handheld devices,” explained Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles project leader, Artur Hasselbach.

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With over a decade of experience as a business and technology journalist working in B2B publishing, Hazel first joined UKi in 2011. After taking 18 months off to bring up her daughter and try her hand at marketing copywriting, she returned in January 2018 to do what she loves best – magazine editing! She is now the editor of UKi's Passenger Terminal World and Parcel and Postal Technology International magazines.

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