Three Ways Autonomous Vehicles are Impacting Industrial Real Estate

As companies analyze the future of their businesses, it’s important to consider the impact of autonomous vehicles moving forward.

The industrial real estate industry has always been dependent on technology advancements, which bring new and exciting opportunities to the sector. Over the years, the industry has reaped the benefits of virtual walkthroughs, big data and blockchain, and now it’s gearing up for the growing use of autonomous vehicles.


Autonomous vehicles have been entering more and more cities over the past few years, and as the trend grows, it’s important for those in the industrial real estate industry to know how this technology advancement will impact the future of their businesses.

Here are three ways autonomous vehicles are impacting industrial real estate:

1. Distribution Footprint
As autonomous fleets become smarter and are able to travel longer distances in shorter time frames, businesses will need to rethink their distribution footprint. Fewer warehouses will be necessary as fulfillment cycles become more efficient, delivery times become faster, distribution centers are able to cover a wider geographical area and the need for labor decreases. All of these factors result in both time savings and cost savings, which is a win-win for businesses.

2. Location
As autonomous vehicles expand into new destinations, the value of real estate is likely to shift, with warehouses located in more rural areas where real estate is more affordable and spacious. This shift will lead businesses to rely more on data and analytics to rewrite their distribution footprint while continuing to meet the demands and needs of customers and take advantage of benefits like decreased need for labor, lower administrative, operational and inventory control costs, improved routes and faster shipping/delivery times.

3. Facility Design
Designing for the future is not a new best practice, but it’s one to follow as autonomous vehicles will continue to decrease the need for parking lots, garages and parking spaces on roads and possibly increase the need for more charging stations and pickup and drop-off lanes. This freed-up space can then be used for storage, bike lanes or green spaces like parks and gardens.

Creating more flexible and efficient designs—higher ceilings, revamped trucking courts that support autonomous fleets, minimal parking, greater power specifications, etc.—will better prepare your business to support autonomous operations, such as using autonomic forklifts and racklifts and autonomous vehicles to automate the loading and unloading of products.

While the use of autonomous vehicles is still in its early stages, it’s wise to start preparing industrial spaces for the implementation of autonomy because broad adoption is likely going to happen much faster than anticipated. Some cities, including San Francisco; Pittsburgh; Austin, Texas; and Washington, D.C., are already testing prototypes on roadways, and major e-commerce players like Amazon are already utilizing autonomy to make day-to-day operations more efficient.

As you start to plan for the future of your businesses, ensure you take the necessary steps to be prepared for the next disruptor in industrial real estate: autonomous vehicles.

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