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Robot-enabled delivery

Robot-enabled delivery is an industry dealing with transportation of goods direct to customers via a robot.

Overview

Robot-enabled delivery is an industry dealing with transportation of goods direct to customers via a robot. This could be through multiple avenues, including low speed robots, autonomous vehicles, unmanned drones.

The delivery robot market is expected to grow substantially in the coming years, as technology improves, and e-commerce vendors and traditional businesses utilize the technology. Amazon has already deployed around 2,000 robots in its distribution warehouses around the United States, and DHL announced it would deploy 1,000 robots into its own goods delivery network in March 2020.

Cargo-only robots are also advantaged due to the lack of red tape surrounding passenger safety. Despite local and federal safety guidelines currently restricting autonomous vehicles' from carrying people, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently updated its safety rules with exemptions that allow driverless cargo vehicles to operate in public. The NHTSA exemption currently allows these cargo-only autonomous vehicles to forego safety standards designed to protect human occupants. The exemption also allows manufacturer Nuro production of 2,500 cargo-only vehicles per year for two years, opening the door to delivery-focused autonomous vehicles.

Multiple avenues of delivery have opened for robot-enabled delivery, including low speed robots, autonomous vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones, UAVs). Low speed robots are focused on last-mile delivery, while autonomous-vehicle and drone-based delivery have the possibility to be used in both middle-mile and last-mile transportation. Robots are expected to utilize a mix of Level 4 autonomy as well as remote teleoperation.

Low speed delivery

Low speed delivery robots are one of the fastest emerging robot-enabled delivery services, due to the lack of human-cargo which allows them to be built smaller and avoid cumbersome safety regulations. These robots are slow moving, usually not exceeding speeds of 10 miles per hour, and carry packages and food goods directly to consumers.

This along with the fact they mostly travel on sidewalks, where pedestrians are moving slower as well, reduces safety concerns. Sidewalk Autonomous Delivery Robots (SADR) have begun to populate the low-speed delivery industry, raising questions on the limitations of existing regulations, the technological capabilities of SADRs and opportunities for time/cost savings in the industry.

Autonomous vehicle delivery

Autonomous vehicle based delivery utilizes Level 4 autonomous vehicles to transport goods from distribution centers to consumers without the need for a driver, along select mapped areas. Autonomous vehicle technology is still being researched for human occupancy, but delivery vehicles are expected to reach the streets beforehand due to decreased safety guidelines for non-occupancy vehicles.

Drone-based delivery

Delivery drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that are used to transport packages and goods including food, medical supplies and other items. Drones can be remotely piloted or autonomous, leading delivery companies and suppliers to utilizing them for commercial applications.

Drones have emerged as a viable delivery system, due to decreasing cost of the unmanned aerial vehicles, their range of movement and proven success of the technology. Drones can reach places that standard delivery vehicles can't, such as mountaintops or in dense forest, making them a practical tool for delivering food or medical supplies to inaccessible regions.

Robot-enabled delivery companies
Low speed robot delivery companies

Low speed delivery robots are being introduced at an increasing rate, due in part to coronavirus restrictions prompting an increase in the population working from home and improvements in autonomous vehicle technology. Starship Technologies, a California-based startup, has deployed their robots to college campuses including UCLA, Northern Arizona's Flagstaff campus and George Mason's Fairfax campus. Other companies have joined suit, from startups like Marble, Nuro, Cartken and Robomart to major conglomerates like Amazon.

Low speed robot delivery companies

Drone-based delivery companies

Delivery drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that are used to transport packages and goods including food, medical supplies and other items. Drones can be remotely piloted or autonomous, leading delivery companies and suppliers to utilizing them for commercial applications.

Drone-based delivery companies

Autonomous-vehicle delivery companies

Autonomous vehicle delivery companies seek to incorporate artificial intelligence in vehicles for delivery purposes. These companies are sometimes involved with autonomous cars built to carry passengers, but oftentimes specialize in delivery-based vehicles.

While the majority of existing vehicle manufacturers focus on creating autonomous vehicles for ride sharing purposes, there is a list of startups working to integrate the technology into parcel delivery fleets. Although no such vehicles are approved for commercial use on residential streets at the moment (without an attendant), many new and existing companies are conducting research on artificial intelligence and production of autonomous vehicles for this purpose.

Autonomous-vehicle delivery companies

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