By: Zach Blank
There are about 70,000 FedEx drivers in the United States who have eight hours a day to do on average anywhere between 150 to 200 stops. The drivers get a delivery manifest every morning and that’s it. The stops on the manifest are not in any particular order and don’t even include any kind of map, navigation, or direction.
Straightaway fixes large scale delivery for these drivers by turning the manifests into super efficient delivery plans that save over an hour a day. It comes down to AI routing for pairing addresses in a smart way with live traffic data.
The camera is the interface
Straightaway lets the driver take a picture of each page of those manifests, which can commonly be over 10 pages with an average of 150 stops. Using phone camera and the optical character recognition (OCR) software, the pictures of the lists of addresses are geocoded, and then organized into the most efficient route. Here is what this looks like:
The AI optimization takes into account all of the different data, including things like traffic and road conditions and construction, which always get updated throughout the day.
After uploading the manifest, drivers start to see the route being laid out with real-time updates. For example between that stop 127 and 128, indications start alerting the driver that “Hey, there’s some traffic up there.”
Immediate feedback from the APIs recognizes when a bad address is captured by the camera. If there is a coffee smudge next to one of the addresses on the manifest, then the algorithms flag the outlier and the driver can quickly manually override.
Or if a driver’s route is in Salt Lake City but now includes a random stop in Chicago, that’s probably not right. The UX surfaces all potential errors to the driver to swipe to edit, and then updates the route. Whenever an optimization is seen, it gets shown to the user.
Sometimes drivers want to manually reorder, so the UI makes it as easy as possible to drag and drop for users, with some bulk edit features.
The app basically has two modes: planning and driving. It’s common for drivers to stay in the driving mode all day if they’re professional drivers who do 150 stops a day, know their city, and don’t necessarily need turn by turn navigation, but always need to know where the next stop is.
This is different from a normal navigation app — if driving to a friend’s house is the only route the user needs that day, then the user does not need to be paying attention to the address at all times. A driver with 150 stops on their delivery manifest does always need to know where they are going based on the address of the destination. With the driving mode, the driver gets an overview with the goal of checking each stop off with live turn by turn navigation and traffic updates every 30 seconds.
Drivers can hone the app for each driver’s preference — toggling options on and off, like avoid tolls and highways, and optimize for traffic. There are even advance features, like adjusting the time at stops, so more accurate ETAs are delivered.
Straightaway really is a to do list. Drivers have 150 items to do and everyone gets a lot of satisfaction with checking those off. The app never wants to check these off automatically for the drivers, but the AI helps create a flywheel — when the driver checks off that they’ve done a stock, the map understands where that happened, and is able to prompt drivers in the future for more accurate addresses and delivery locations.
Similar to the idea of Nike Run Club — drivers are competitive. Drivers want to see their progress, this is their job, this is what they do for a living. So Straightaway provides answers to questions from drivers like how much time have I saved this year, this month? How many miles have I driven? What are my stats? Central to Straightaway is providing these stats for drivers and optimizing their results.