Volvo's 'Roam Delivery' Service Puts Junk In Your Trunk While You're Not Around

February 20, 2014

Ten years ago, many folks thought that we'd all be telecommuting by now, working from home and seeing the world from the comfort of our virtual reality pods.

Alas, that hasn't happened -- not for most of us, anyway. We still dash to the office, we hit the gym, and when we vacation, we usually do it the same way our parents and grandparents did: by train, plane, or automobile. 

That keeps us on the go, relying on our smartphones to keep us connected with everything that we're missing at home (and elsewhere). But there's one small problem that smartphones can't quite solve: the problem of deliveries. 

We've all been there, waiting for UPS or FedEx or the Post Office, rescheduling important appointments because we really need to stay put and get that package. Now, Volvo has proposed a solution to this dilemma, and it's called "Roam Delivery".

In theory, Roam Delivery is fairly simple: instead of having packages delivered to your home or office, you can now choose to have packages dropped off in the trunk of your car. You place your order online, and an app lets you know when the delivery has taken place.

The reality is a little more complex. Here are a couple of key paragraphs from the official press release:

Volvo's new digital keys technology will allow consumers to choose their car as a delivery option when ordering goods online. Via a smartphone or tablet, the owner will be informed when a delivery requires dropping off or picking up from the car.

Having accepted the delivery, a digital key will be activated which tracks when the car is opened and then locked again. Once the delivery is completed, the digital key ceases to exist. The system is based on the functionality of the telematics app Volvo On Call, which also makes it possible to remotely heat or cool the car and see its position or fuel level via the mobile phone.

In other words, when you order goods online, you can give the delivery company a one-time-use digital key to your Volvo. The company uses the Volvo On Call app to locate your car, then uses the digital key to open your vehicle and place your delivery inside. (We assume that using the digital key will automatically cause the car to re-lock once the truck is closed, though Volvo hasn't said as much.)

Volvo explains that it created Roam Delivery -- which will debut at this year's Mobile World Congress -- because up to 60 percent of online shoppers have problems receiving the goods they've ordered. Those missed connections add up to €1 billion ($1.37 billion U.S.) in re-delivery expenses. Of those who participated in Roam Delivery's pilot program, 92 percent "found it more convenient to receive deliveries to their car than at home".

The technology behind Roam Delivery isn't that shocking or new -- after all, it's really just a GPS system merged with some OnStar-style lock-popping. No, what's intriguing is the application of that technology.

A few years back, Roam Delivery might've been seen as outrageously intrusive. Or, it could've been seen as anachronistic -- a throwback to the days when you could leave your house unlocked for the mailman and Mrs. Olson. We'll be curious to see how today's consumers react.

Would you mind getting your groceries or Amazon boxes via Roam Delivery? Check out the companion video above, then share your thoughts in the comments below.


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