How are Autonomous Delivery Robots Meeting the Demands of Today?

Autonomous Delivery Robots

The age of Delivery robots is now. We just need to relax, follow social distancing, and order food!

The COVID-19 has catapulted many intriguing technological advancements in our world today. While we lie confined in our home, bound to follow the lockdown mandates, maintain social distancing, there is ‘something’ out there moving miles to reach us. Enter delivery robots. From delivering pizzas at our doorstep to carrying infectious blood samples in hospitals, these autonomous robots are proving resourceful in doing activities that were generally done us.  This development is considered a harbinger of a future that will be dotted with AI-powered robots making autonomous delivery for us, which also includes picking our grocery bag.

In countries like the USA, DoorDash has already begun delivering nearly 22lbs of food. While making a delivery, the robot’s compartment is locked to prevent others from stealing or tampering with it. After it reaches its destination, DoorDash sends a text message with a link. The recipient clicks the link to unlock the food delivery robot. Meanwhile, in Suwon, Gyeonggi province in South Korea, Woowa Brothers, the operator of Korea’s top food delivery app Baedal Minjok, will start testing self-driving food delivery robots, Dilly, in an apartment complex and a shopping mall next to it from August 3. This six-wheeled delivery robot with sensors to recognize obstacles can drive 4 to 5 kilometers per hour, equivalent to the walking speed of a human. It can deliver up to 12 cups of drinks or six sandwiches at once. And in Milton Keynes, UK, Starship Technologies, is also filling the same shoes of autonomous delivery robot services.

Despite the exciting scope of these robots, they are some major ‘roadblocks’ that need to be handled first. These robots disrupt the fabric of an urban neighborhood. Typically these delivery robots wait at the side of the street for a safe point to cross the road, which results in preventing other people from accessing the pavement (be it pedestrian or a person who uses a wheelchair). In case there are hundreds of such robots in the future, they would essentially turn sidewalks into bike lanes. Nicole Ferrara, executive director of pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco, says, “We see this as a privatization of the public right of way.” Ferrara argued that walking has social, health, and economic benefits, while robots could pose a hazard to senior citizens and people with disabilities. Therefore she demands a ban on robots from sidewalks. Lawmakers also cite that delivery robots violate vehicle and traffic laws that prohibit self-driving cars and motor vehicles on sidewalks and citing job loss and traffic congestion as their main concerns.

Next, these robots face certain maneuver issues too. “The robot is only available for small deliveries within a specific location as they struggle in unfavorable weather and find it difficult to maneuver past obstacles such as bollards,” says Holly Inglis, consumer analyst at research firm GlobalData. She further adds, “These issues could be exacerbated when the technology is rolled out to more rural areas or busy high streets.:  Besides, human rights advocacy groups argue that privacy and data protection issues could be triggered due to the delivery of robots using camera recording and collecting other consumer data through the delivery process.

This is all new venture, and again, it’s evolving in real-time right in front of us. However, we need to address these concerns before delivery robots go mainstream. According to the MarketsandMarkets report, the delivery robot market is expected to grow from USD 11.9 million in 2018 to USD 34.0 million by 2024, at a CAGR of 19.15% during the forecast period.

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