From its techy-sounding name, ‘logisitics’ seems like it should be an industry full of cutting-edge innovations. And yet delivery drivers often get by with nothing better than Google Maps and a piece of paper telling them where to go. DriverNet is a new startup that wants to make their lives a lot easier.
Let’s say you’re out on a job delivering to a chain of stores. Google Maps will take you to each shop’s front door, but delivery access might be around the back, or down a hard-to-find access road. So then you have to check your printed manifest, which hopefully has the details you need. Then maybe you need to call the manager to open up for you, and maybe the manager keeps you waiting 10 minutes. And then you realise you’ve parked the truck at the wrong angle for easy unloading…
In short, it’s all more complicated than it looks. DriverNet aims to solve these problems with a mobile app that offers custom navigation and a bunch of features to make drivers’ lives easier. It’ll alert staff at your destination when you’re nearly there, it supports videos that show you where and how to park, and it can even automatically open the gate for you so you don’t have to wait for access.
”Most logistics systems are built for management,” says DriverNet founder Ant Chisnall. “They give information to managers so they can interrogate drivers about why they were late, but they don’t help the driver.” DriverNet is driver-centric from the off, and Chisnall says feedback from the frontline is positive.
Chisnall spent 16 years in logistics before making the leap into tech, so he knows the pain points and how a well-thought-out app can overcome them. He’s now two years into DriverNet’s journey, funded to date from his own savings, with a smattering of research funding from the Department for Transport and Innovate UK.
The St Helens-based startup is now a team of five, and Chisnall feels much more comfortable with the idea of being a founder than he did a couple of years ago. Still, he says any downtime he has is spent genning-up on the tech industry through books and podcasts.
DriverNet and the self-driving future
Given that self-driving trucks are on the way, isn’t DriverNet something of a short-term bet? Chisnall thinks not. “A lot of what we focus on is the final 500 metres… it’s more difficult than people think.”
The end of a journey is the most meticulous for a delivery driver. While big depots may be a breeze for an automated truck, they’ll need a lot of specialist data to navigate the often complicated layouts of towns and villages. “A lot of the infrastructure we’re building can be relevant to autonomous systems,” says Chisnall.
In the immediate future though, DriverNet still has to contend with full-scale trials of its platform. It aims to begin its first of these this autumn. And Chisnall says DriverNet has won an international award for satellite navigation, details of which will be revealed later in the year.
Meanwhile, DriverNet is speaking with potential investors, with the aim of becoming the app of choice for delivery drivers the world over.
DriverNet is one of the startups pitching at the Northern Stars regional heat in Liverpool, this Thursday 28th September.
Featured image credit: Lee Bristol / Flickr
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