It's one of the hottest topics in mobility of late: the emergence of goods hauling, rather than people moving, as the most practical and scalable application of autonomous-vehicle technology.
But it's a trend that builds on long historical precedent, notes Daniel Laury, CEO of AV delivery company Udelv. He says using cargo delivery to prove out innovative technologies is a tradition that goes back centuries.
He spoke at the Automotive News Shift Mobility Forum, held in January during CES.
"If you look back at the history of transportation over the past 300 years, every new mode of transportation started with cargo first," Laury said.
Many regard Carl Benz's motor car, patented in 1886, as the first automobile. Laury says that distinction goes to a steam tractor created in 1769. Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot's three-wheeled, self-propelled vehicle was used to transport French artillery.
"It took more than a hundred years before automobiles were designed to carry people," Laury said.
"It's the same for trains, planes, rockets, hyperloops — you name it. It is safer to carry goods than it is to carry people."