By delivering your online purchases, autonomous vehicles and robots are changing how you receive your orders. It’s predicted that by 2024, the autonomous delivery robot marketplace will reach $34 billion USD. See how this emerging technology is revolutionizing today’s delivery landscape.
Autonomous Vehicles and Robots in the News
Online food delivery service DoorDash recently acquired Scotty Lab, an autonomous vehicle start-up creating remote-controlled cars. Deploying driverless vehicles to pick up and deliver food can improve delivery times while reducing costs. With rumors circulating that DoorDash is considering filing an IPO, this tech-heavy addition to its portfolio could be a valuable acquisition.
Postmates, another food delivery service, is currently using autonomous food delivery robots to make deliveries in San Francisco. Currently in its testing stage, these small robots (known as Serve) are navigating the densely populated city to conveniently bring consumers their takeout. With its “social-aware-navigation”, Serve is also learning to interact with elderly and disabled individuals on sidewalks while making deliveries.
In late May, the U.S. Postal Service ran a pilot program to test autonomous trucks. Now, more delivery services are looking at autonomous vehicle (AV) technology to improve distribution.
Earlier this year, Amazon began testing autonomous delivery with Amazon Scout. The robot can make same-day deliveries as well as one- and two-day shipping. Scout is currently undergoing testing in Washington state with a recent expansion to Southern California.
Having been tested in the Pacific Northwest, Scout has traveled through several types of inclement weather. It can easily navigate its way through busy streets. Sean Scott, vice president of Amazon Scout, mentions that “One of our favorite parts of this journey so far has been witnessing how excited customers are when they see the delivery device for the first time, and how they’ve welcomed Scout into their neighborhood.”
Rivaling Scout is Roxo, FedEx’s autonomous robot, which can also make same-day deliveries. Currently being tested in Manchester, New Hampshire, Roxo has the ability to navigate bumpy streets while carrying up to 100 pounds.
Concerns of Autonomous Delivery
Top concerns of using autonomous vehicles and robots include safety and job replacement. Are food and package deliveries made by driverless cars and robots safe for the public? Will it replace delivery drivers and take jobs away from humans workers?
Autonomous vehicles and machines are being examined to ensure they can interact appropriately with their surroundings. Like Serve’s “social-aware-navigation”, these machines include safety features such as sensors, cameras, and other tools to help it navigate streets and recognize objects.
Autonomous vehicle company Waymo recently released footage of how its autonomous vehicles operate and react when encountering objects on the road in low visibility weather. The video shows how the car was able to detect the object and react appropriately. Debbie Hersman, the Chief Safety Officer, states that the vehicle will follow road rules and pullover when in extremely low visibility weather to ensure the safety of the public.
The makers of this technology do not imagine them completely replacing human drivers. Many see the technology as a way of helping delivery drivers distribute food faster. For example, the robot could bring food from the car to the customer’s door, which would leave the driver free to prepare for the next delivery. Because fully driverless level five autonomous vehicles are not yet available, most deliveries made by an autonomous car would either require a driver inside the vehicle or for someone to remotely monitor the car for an emergency situation.
Preparing for Autonomous Delivery
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Mackin, Jean. (6 August 2019). FedEx launches pilot program for delivery robot. WMUR.
Scott, Sean. (6 August 2019). What’s next for Amazon Scout?. Amazon Blog.
Crowe, Cailin. (19 August 2019). Postmates to deploy autonomous delivery robots in San Francisco. Smart Cities Drive.
Wiggers, Kyle. (20 August 2019). Starship Technologies raises $40 million for autonomous delivery robots. Venture Beat.
Marston, Jennifer. (21 August 2019). DoorDash Acquires Autonomous Vehicle Startup Scotty Labs. The Spoon.
Korosec, Kirsten. (23 August 2019). Watch a Waymo self-driving car test its sensors in a haboob. TechCrunch.