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University of Washington studies future of urban package delivery with lockers and street sensors

Published on October 7, 2020

UPS delivery truck stopped along a curb and a cyclist is riding past.
Image Credit: Anna Bovbjerg (CC BY 2.0)

Fed up with porch pirates snatching your packages? Missed yet another delivery that requires a signature because you couldn’t hear the delivery person knock over your umpteenth video meeting of the day? Property manager at your apartment or condo building sending yet another nagging note to pick up packages because the mailroom is full?

The newly installed bright blue Belltown Lockers tucked into a parking lot at Fourth Avenue and Bell Street in Seattle may offer a safe haven for your deliveries — and chart the future of urban package delivery.

The lockers, which arrived in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood in late August, come courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy, which awarded the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab $1.5 million over three years to study how new technology might improve the energy efficiency of goods delivery in dense urban areas. Now two years into the study, the UW lab, which focuses on supply chain and transportation logistics in cities, has something for the public to try out so that researchers can study consumer behavior and package delivery patterns.

At the same time, as delivery trucks drive through Belltown and park at commercial vehicle loading zones, like the one closest to the lockers, newly installed sensors under the pavement will detect the vehicle’s presence and dwell time, then communicate that data to the Seattle Department of Transportation and the Urban Freight Lab to study delivery vehicle travel patterns.

“The big idea is trying to increase the density of deliveries, and by doing that, reduce the amount of driving around for those deliveries,” said Anne Goodchild, University of Washington civil and environmental engineering professor and founding director of the Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center. “If right now a package delivery person is delivering ten items to ten different addresses, they make a tour of ten spots. If they deliver to a single location, then it reduces driving, parking, and impact on the neighborhood.”


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Originally written by Gregory Scruggs for GeekWire.
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