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Deutsche Post DHL Trucks Try Smarter Route-Planning Software

April 1, 2009 - Deutsche Post DHL, a German postal provider, is equipping some of its Berlin delivery trucks with advanced route-planning software that not only calculates shortest distances but also takes into account current traffic conditions.

Under the SmartTruck pilot program, traffic reports come courtesy of nearly 500 GPS-enabled taxis that share data with the network, enabling the software to track vehicle flow through the Berlin streets.

"Dynamic route planning not only calculates the best route in advance, the system is also the first to account for real-time traffic information in inner city areas, for example traffic jams or construction sites, and adapts the route accordingly," says Dr. Keith Ulrich, head of technology at Deutsche Post. "A concept such as this is completely new in the industry."

If proven successful, the new software could offer big savings in fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions, Duetsche Post says. In addition, "we will be looking at a significant improvement in our customer service," thanks to faster delivery, Ulrich says.

Also under the program, mail items will be assigned radio frequency identification (RFID) smart tags for greater efficiency in pick-up and delivery. They also enable the system give precise pick-up times, notifying customers of scheduled pickups via text message.

DHL says that, after a three-month pilot phase, SmartTrucks will be deployed on about 160 Berlin delivery routes, as well as in some other urban areas, rural areas, and possibly abroad.

The SmartTruck technology was developed in-house at DHL's Innovation Center, with help from Motorola and the German government.

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