In 1907, the United Parcel Service (UPS) started out making deliveries by bicycle. Flash forward to 2012, and the company began a pilot project in Hamburg, Germany, using electric-assist "Cargo Cruiser" tricycles for deliveries – that project is still ongoing. Now, UPS has started a similar program using a single trike in the city of Portland, Oregon.
UPS states that advantages of using the Cruisers include reduced carbon emissions and less traffic congestion – they're presumably also cheaper to operate than gas-powered vehicles.
The Portland trike can be operated purely by human power, purely by its motors, or a combination of both. A windshield helps protect the rider from inclement weather. As is the case in Hamburg, it picks up parcels at a centrally-located drop-off point, so it doesn't have to travel to and from a warehouse on the edge of town.
It has been making deliveries since Nov. 21st, and will continue to do so throughout the current testing phase. During that period, UPS will be assessing factors such as reliability, integration to the city's infrastructure and acceptance of the vehicle. If all goes well, the company could roll out more of the trikes both in Portland and other US cities, sometime next year.
Portland was chosen, incidentally, because UPS has already been using conventional bicycles for deliveries there.