(Chicago, IL, 11.29, 2021) ] In “The Most Important Mile: Inclusive Futures for Local Delivery,” distribution systems are supported by autonomous technology and centered on communities. Released on the biggest e-commerce shopping day in the United States, this three-part report portrays the challenges and opportunities of revisioning how technology connects local economies to each other and the world.


In 2031, robo-vehicles bloom with low-carbon produce at a 24-hour farmer’s market in the Netherlands. It’s one of many community co-operatives started by a Berlin “rescue supermarket” that fuels a new circular economic model throughout the EU.


In 2028 in Queens, New York City, DIYers upcycle, recycle, and make essential goods without depending on global supply chains or extractive corporations. Using open-source autonomous delivery and a nimble local mindset, they retake the streets and meet orders.


In 2024, the national postal system in Perth, Australia, orchestrates local distribution systems. This model is “Mobility as a Service, but moving stuff instead of people,” giving consumers sustainable delivery choices and boosting small businesses.

The report says these futures are possible, but they demand bold and fresh approaches to governing the business and technology of local delivery. No matter how ethical the platforms described in these scenarios may be, unless consumers want to use them, they will fail. For this reason, the stories describe benefits and outcomes for individuals as well as the effects and potential for us all, collectively, at scale.

“These scenarios were inspired and informed by ideas, initiatives, businesses, and organisations at work in the world today,” state lead authors Bryan Boyer and Dr. Anthony Townsend. “While the stories combine and integrate those examples to bring to life possible futures, the signals we detected happening right now clarify larger challenges for strategic action.”

“Bryan and Anthony are some of the foremost observers of how technology interacts with and shapes society—and the leading futurists when it comes to mobility. This scenario exercise on how goods delivery can be more inclusive is invaluable,” said Benjamin de la Peña, CEO of the Shared-Use Mobility Center.

The “Most Important Mile” was written at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when online and local delivery had surged as a necessary way to obtain needed goods. Yet, while others locked down, the essential workers delivering these goods could not. The ensuing risk to workers and disparities in who has access to and can obtain these services partly fueled this investigation into more inclusive approaches.

Join us for a virtual discussion and re-release celebration

December 9 from 8:15 AM – 9:30 AM PST

In this 75-minute webinar, you will meet authors Dr. Anthony Townsend and Bryan Boyer, who will discuss their report, then take part in a panel discussion focusing on how autonomous vehicles impact society and individuals. Shared-Use Mobility Center CEO Benjie de la Peña will moderate.

Media Contact: Leslie@sharedusemobilitycenter.org