Cities must consider how to make the best use of public spaces as automated delivery becomes more common. Benefits of robot deliveries could include lower delivery costs for companies, faster customer support, energy efficiency and sustainability, delivery staff protection, and accuracy in delivering the right product to the right customer. Robotic distribution has been restricted to some areas due to issues such as congested sidewalks, malevolent actions by bystanders, and strict government principles.
1. Digit from Ford
Ford is experimenting with robotics to push the boundaries of autonomy. One-click shopping and conveniences such as two-day delivery are incredibly convenient, but they are wreaking havoc on our communities and neighbourhoods. Agility Robotics developed and built Digit, a two-legged robot that not only looks like a human but also walks like one. Digit can go up and downstairs, walk naturally over rough terrain, and even respond to things like being bumped without losing its balance and falling over. It is made of lightweight material and is capable of carrying packages weighing up to 40 pounds. Digit’s unique design also allows it to fold up tightly for easy storage in the back of a self-driving vehicle before it is required. Digit can be deployed to retrieve a package from a self-driving car until it arrives at its destination and completes the final phase in the distribution process.
How Digit Works
Digit has only enough sensory capacity to maneuver through simple situations, thanks to a LiDAR and a few stereo cameras. It can send a picture back to the vehicle if it comes across an unforeseen obstacle and has the vehicle configure a solution. The car might also send the data to the cloud and ask for assistance from other systems to help Digit navigate, offering several levels of assistance to keep the robot light and agile.
2. Amazon Prime Air
Although the Prime Air fleet isn’t yet able to distribute packages at scale, Amazon says it is constantly flying and testing the technology. As part of a drive to bring deliveries to Prime members faster, the company has focused on drone delivery. Amazon has also spent billions of dollars in the transition from two-day to one-day delivery since last year. In 2013, Amazon started testing delivery drones with the aim of having packages delivered to customers’ doorsteps in 30 minutes or less. The business filed a petition with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in August 2019 to get those plans approved. Amazon stated in its petition that deliveries would take place in low-density areas and that shipments would weigh no more than 5 pounds. At the 2019 MARS conference, the company unveiled a new electric delivery drone capable of transporting packages under 5 pounds to consumers in under half an hour and flying up to 15 miles.
3. Amazon Scout Delivery Bots
The boxy delivery bots look like six-wheeled chests that are capable of carrying meals, groceries, and parcels to homes and offices. Generally, humans on cycles, motorized scooters, or huge delivery vehicles typically deliver packages on the final leg of all these deliveries, called the last mile. Thousands of vehicles compete for space on busy urban streets. Deliveries are on the rise in all dense city centers, and unless city and state officials start considering technologies like robot deliveries, we should expect much worse traffic delays when we’re all trying to get places.
4. Autonomous Robots by Starship Technologies
Starship Technologies, located in both San Francisco and Estonia, has a more upbeat outlook. Hundreds of their robots have already completed 25,000 deliveries, using machine learning algorithms, onboard sensors, and interactive maps to navigate local communities. Starship’s robots work almost entirely autonomously in mapped regions, but human operators are on hand to interfere if necessary.
5. Space Logistics
Do you need to send a shipment to outer space? The logistics will be handled by this “concierge to the stars”. The cost of a stamp starts at $30,000. NanoRacks, one of the first companies in the industry runs the first commercial laboratory in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as well as a panel laboratory attached to the station. NanoRacks manages all of the logistics associated with sending projects into space for a fee of $30,000 for educational institutions and $60,000 for commercial companies. The tiny, for-profit firm would manage the paperwork, find transportation among the many unmanned vehicles heading to the ISS, set up the experiment, and handle all government formalities for would-be space experimenters. The typical NanoRack experiment lasts 30 days in space.
Benefits of Robot Deliveries
- Eliminating Parking Problems: According to a survey, 73 percent of freight and delivery vehicles in Arlington, Texas, were parked outside of designated areas, obstructing bike lanes, fire hydrants, and crosswalks. Cities may alleviate congestion and remove the parking issue completely by switching the last leg of deliveries from the road to the sidewalk.
- Slashing Delivery Costs: Entities such as Amazon are not developing this delivery technology simply to clear up urban traffic. Self-driving vehicles and sidewalk robots could reduce last-mile delivery prices in cities by as much as 40 percent.
- Obstruction-Free Paths: To gain public trust, these machines must demonstrate that they can share pedestrian spaces safely and courteously. Some cities in the United States have relatively empty streets and sidewalks that do not see a pedestrian travel for long periods of time. These paths could be suitable for robots. However, not all routes can be constructed in this manner.
- Disruptions: Sidewalk robots may face disturbances in their routines as well, such as curious bystanders blocking their way and robbers attempting to snare a package en route. The latter issue could be solved by using remote-controllable package locking mechanisms. However, that could put the robot at risk as people may try to damage the locks.
- Pranks and Malevolent Behavior: After children covered their cameras and sensors with snow, a delivery robot became stranded. Another case involved a simple humanoid robot that moved through Canada and Europe before being decapitated in Philadelphia, where it began its journey in the United States.
- Approval from Authorities: Additional challenges include perfecting the program that helps delivery robots avoid both still and moving objects, as well as communicating with city officials concerned about public safety