“I’ve always been obsessed with last-mile delivery. Like getting a pizza delivered to your house. Man, what a miracle, there’s nothing better.”
From childhood dreams and mechanical engineering students experimenting with projects, to building autonomous trains to deliver food to homes underground. Pipedream Labs’ co-founder and CEO Garrett Scott has no shortage of dreams when it comes to innovation and changing the logistics landscape of last-mile delivery.
Locate2u News sat down with Scott to learn more about hyperlogisitcs, and the future of last-mile delivery with autonomous trains.
How the concept departed the station
“I love building stuff,” Scott’s face lights up as he talks about where it all started for him and the Pipedream Labs team. He designed double-headed showers and other odd projects as a mechanical engineering student. Soon, he realized: “I want to do something for the next couple of decades of my life and just do one thing.”
“I think it’s sometimes frustrating to see how much innovation goes on with global logistics. [Seeing] how much of the cost is still stuck in the last-mile distribution.” According to the latest data, the US will have 40% of its traffic dedicated to delivery by 2030.
That’s how Pipedream Labs’ autonomous trains departed from the planning phase into reality. They wanted to take last-mile delivery to the next level.
Collaboration with cities
But, they had to collaborate with the local government for this concept to work. You see, using underground infrastructure comes with some risks and regulations. They prepared a plan, fearing the worst, but realized it was much easier to get the buy-in from cities than expected.
It also solves a huge problem municipalities have been grappling with. Using underground tunnels to transport goods in pipes, the same concept used for water, wifi, or other utilities, will result in less road traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.
Pipedream identified a few problems businesses have when it’s lunchtime and how to get food into buildings. How do you bring the warehouses closer to the cities without more clogging traffic? How do you get food or goods into someone’s home, a commercial site, or a restaurant? Or even move it from a warehouse to a pickup point where an autonomous vehicle or drone can pick it up?
“We started about a couple of years ago, been focused on getting that technology as simple and reliable as possible, and have started playing this year,” says Scott. They now boast a pilot project in Peachtree Corners, northeast of Atlanta in the US.
The battery-operated trains can reach 15 mph average speed and move inside two buildings. For this test in Atlanta, it’s linking an office building with a shopping center. They had to build the infrastructure, with tunnels under streets and digging trenches alongside roadways.
Achieving hyperlogistics by 2030
“By 2030, we want to achieve hyperlogistics.” What is hyperlogistics, and if it’s “reliable delivery under 10 minutes for less than $1,” how is it different from ultrafast deliveries or dark stores?
“Dark stores are like edge computing. It’s getting that product as close to the end users as possible and being able to deploy it on the edge as cheap as it can be,” explains Scott.
“Our goal is to make those dark stores even more efficient by being able to stream items from a warehouse outside of the city that has a much larger capacity and be able to stream them into that dark store on the edge of the network.”
Scott envisions how this will expand the capacity of dark stores, doubling that of traditional warehouses. This expansion would enable quick handoffs to drones or self-driving cars, forming an autonomous delivery network in cities. The ultimate goal is to achieve fast and affordable deliveries, with a target of under 10 minutes, by implementing autonomy in logistics.
Reverse logistics with a twist
For Pipedream, the focus is not only on receiving items inside your home, office, or construction site but also on being able to send them back.
Hyperlogistics focuses on sending a parcel back to the sender. Here’s how he envisions it: “Instead of someone going to Home Depot or the hardware store and buying a screwdriver, owning that screwdriver for ten years. Once you get to autonomy, you have access to that screwdriver super quick and really cheap.”
Scott wants to take reverse logistics into homes and offices, making it super easy. “You can use the screwdriver, and then if you could put it in a drawer in your home and send it back, you achieved an interesting state of commerce. And this is what got us so excited about Pipedream.”
Changing traditional logistics and commerce
“We want to make last-mile delivery so cheap and so fast that it’s creating the way for hyperlogistics and that new type of commerce. [We] also [want to] allow people to create new business models. For any entrepreneur, that is the coolest thing that you can help bring [innovations] out. I think being able to co-locate restaurants around warehouses, where land is cheaper, and give them city wide distribution, at a fraction of the cost of current models is really interesting.”
As entrepreneurs, they want to lay a foundation that empowers innovators to turn their dreams into a reality. “It means that someone can open up a restaurant, a small business on the edge of the city, and still be able to deliver to the whole city without incurring all the costs that currently come with handling delivery. Being able to go delivered to the end user and receive back. I’m really excited.”
A speedy and exciting seven-year journey lies ahead for Pipedream Labs to achieve its dream of becoming hyperlogistics by 2030. “Logistics is the best industry because it takes so many people all working together to make it work. So that’s why I love it,” says Scott.
About the author
Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand. Do you have a story you would like her to expose, report on, or consider? Please send your request to Newsdesk@locate2u.com.