Published On: Thu, Oct 25th, 2018

4 Startups Changing Last-Mile Delivery

In the $2.8 trillion global e-commerce industry, fulfillment is a focal point of success. Consumer preferences have shifted to expect fast, free shipping, but most online brands don’t have an evolved enough logistics process to offer it. This leaves many stores tied to selling to marketplaces, limiting their growth and profit potential.

photo/ Mashiro Momo

Interestingly, the thing that makes shipping so expensive isn’t the initial or secondary leg of the delivery. What actually drive shipping costs is the last leg of the trip, known as last-mile delivery.

Here are four startups changing the last-mile delivery process and helping smaller companies compete with the e-commerce giants.


Brick-and-mortar brands across industries are racing to offer more convenient online purchasing options, but many don’t have the infrastructure in place to fulfill the delivery. That’s where Udelv fills the void, creating the first self-driving electric delivery vehicle. With deep learning, Udelv’s delivery vehicles can travel in complete autonomy on the majority of roads and in most weather conditions.

Low-latency technology allows for easy supervision of Udelv’s fleet, remote overrides and human-assisted guidance for unusual scenarios. The cargo space in Udelv vehicles is also impressive, allowing multiple orders to be stored and connected to mobile apps to give shoppers easy, secure access to their delivery. Check out Udelv’s self-driving delivery truck in action during a public beta test earlier this year.


Billions of people around the world don’t have access to essential life-saving supplies. That’s where Zipline comes in, allowing health workers at remote clinics and hospitals to send on-demand orders to a Zipline distribution center within a 50-mile radius. Once an order is received, it’s promptly packaged and delivered via drone in under 30 minutes. Zipline currently operates two R&D facilities in Northern California, and maintains two distribution centers in Rwanda, helping millions of Rwandans get life-saving blood products. While Zipline’s model is rightly focused on humanitarian efforts, it’s clear to see how this system can translate to the overall e-commerce industry.


Another exciting company in the autonomous vehicle delivery space is Nuro, a startup that actually launched the same day that Udelv first demonstrated its delivery vehicle. But aside from that commonality, the two startups offer very different designs. Nuro’s cars are slower, smaller (only 3.5 feet wide) and diverse in the types of cargo they carry (assuming they don’t exceed the car’s modest 250-pound payload). And unlike Udelv’s fleet, Nuro’s vehicles don’t have room for passengers, allowing maximum storage for a wide range of products from groceries to flowers to dry cleaning. Here’s a look at Nuro’s self-driving car taking a test drive.


Grossly out-funded by competitors Instacart and Postmates, Deliv is still excelling with its low-cost, same-day delivery model. But wait, same day and low cost usually aren’t included in the same sentence that doesn’t also include Amazon.

So, how does Deliv do it? With smart dispatching, transparent package tracking features and crowdsourced on-demand drivers around the U.S. Just as the best e-commerce website builders filled a void for entrepreneurs with no coding skills, Deliv is a blessing for the brick-and-mortar e-commerce market. Many brands have convenient store locations but no fulfillment method to get goods to customers’ doorsteps. Deliv changes that, and in a margin-friendly way.

These four startups are poised to change last-mile delivery through autonomous vehicles, drones and streamlined technology solutions. But what’s more exciting is the fact that these companies only represent a handful of startups out there working on smarter, more cost-effective transportation methods. So, whether we’re repeating these names in ten years or not, last-mile delivery solutions are bound to keep getting better.

Author: Kayla Eric


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