In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ViaVan, a public mobility firm that operates across Europe, has been awarded a £32,000 grant by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to develop an intelligent delivery platform that supports local councils and partners across the UK.
As many of the 1.5 million vulnerable residents asked by the Government to self-isolate prepare for a continued shelter-in-place, local councils across the UK are seeking long-term solutions to address the need for at-home delivery of meals and essential goods.
ViaVan plans to use its proven technology and operational expertise in demand-responsive transport to address two primary needs of local councils: 1) optimisation of parcel delivery and 2) increased efficiency of scarce driver and vehicle resources.
ViaVan’s technology coordinates, routes, and tracks parcel delivery, and uses its existing mobile application as a tool for drivers or volunteers supporting delivery efforts.
The ViaVan mobile app presents a list of delivery tasks, starting with parcel pickup instructions. Once parcels are collected, drivers follow an efficient route for drop off, determined by ViaVan’s algorithms. Parcel recipients receive real-time updates on delivery status, and a confirmation message once their delivery is completed. The process provides local councils with the ability to ensure deliveries are contactless and in line with public health guidelines.
In partnership with Sutton Council and supported by Innovate UK funding, ViaVan launched its first trial in the UK in just a number of weeks. The service fulfills and optimises emergency food and supply delivery to more than 1,000 vulnerable residents in London’s Borough of Sutton.
The introduction of ViaVan’s technology in Sutton has played a key role in improving the speed, efficiency, and scalability of Sutton Council’s response to the increased demand for deliveries from vulnerable residents impacted by COVID-19. Since launch, the turnaround time for a single vehicle load of deliveries has been cut in half as volunteers no longer need to queue up to register and collect a manually generated delivery manifest. Instead, volunteers receive parcel information and routing through the mobile app, enabling them to complete more delivery trips in the same amount of time.
Efficiency is seen as critical as scale grows and as some volunteers return to work and have less time to assist.
The grant from Innovate UK will also aim to further ViaVan’s mission to advance innovative transport solutions, and to support local governments in the UK with the tools to utilize technology to rapidly introduce flexible transport solutions beyond the global health crisis.
ViaVan, and parent company Via, are partnering with dozens of municipalities, public transit agencies, healthcare organizations, and nonprofits around the world to support mobility for essential healthcare workers and parcel delivery, and to help utilise existing transit infrastructure during this time of emergency. In Berlin, ViaVan and Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) rapidly adapted the popular BerlKönig on-demand public transportation service to serve essential healthcare workers exclusively. In the UK, ViaVan and Go-Coach transformed and accelerated the launch of a demand-responsive bus service in Kent to temporarily replace all fixed-route bus lines, both reducing cost, increasing efficiency and servicing essential rides.
Image credit: ViaVan