Smart, the maker of super-compact cars for urban environments, is to begin trialling a service that allows parcels to be delivered to the trunk of a car. "Smart Ready to Drop" is the first innovation from the carmaker's "smart lab" think tank, which is aimed at "accelerating the development and implementation of creative urban mobility projects."
The service is not the first of its kind. Audi tested its Connect Easy delivery scheme last year, while Volvo has gone on to commercially launch its own In-car Delivery service. Smart does claim, however, that its trial is the biggest of an in-car delivery service ever carried out in Germany.
Developed in partnership with DHL Paket, the aim of the Smart Ready to Drop trial is to gather experience deploying the service in realistic conditions. It follows a 2015 field test of 30 participants and will initially start in Stuttgart, before being extended to Cologne, Bonn, Berlin and, ultimately, seven German cities in total. This time round, there will be several hundred participants per city.
In order to make the service possible, Smart is retrofitting participants' cars with its new Connectivity Box, which will be installed inside the car at the bottom of the windscreen and gives the car connectivity features that can be used for other services too. It supports 2G and 3G network technology and uses protocols specifically designed for the Internet of Things.
Among the functionalities that the Connectivity Box will provide are the ability for the courier to locate a car, flash its lights and safely unlock and lock it. In the future, though, Smart tells Gizmag that it could also be used for facilitating private car-sharing services without the need for handing over keys, or for having a car washed and valeted while it is not in use.
The box can be retrofitted to the last generation of Smart Fortwo models with combustion (as opposed to electric) engines and will be installed in the Smart Fortwo Ready To Edition from September. Smart says that a beta test of the box will be carried out later this year that will help to determine a suitable price for it.
For the in-car delivery, both the courier and the customer use special mobile apps that will be available for iOS and Android at first. Initially, the customer specifies their Smart car as the delivery address when ordering something online. They are reminded, via their app, of where to park their car prior to the delivery being made, while the DHL driver is notified of the desired delivery location.
The courier uses their app in conjunction with the Connectivity Box in order to locate the customer's car and to receive a single-use digital key with which to access the vehicle's trunk. Once the parcel has been deposited and the trunk shut, the digital key expires and the customer is notified of the successful delivery. It is also possible for couriers to collect parcels that are being returned in this way.
The Smart Ready to Drop trial will begin later this year.