The novel coronavirus COVID-19 had one thing in common with us all: it forced us to step outside our comfort zones and enabled us to adapt to new ways to work and live, no matter how stubborn we may be. We grew our horizons and made new connections by allowing telecommuting to be possible for workers who had never done it before. Autonomous delivery robots were another thing that many people saw for the first-time during this pandemic. As someone who uses autonomous delivery robots in my family’s home, but has increased our reliance on them to avoid busy shops and social distancing, I believe that many people will want to continue using this technology in a post-coronavirus world.
Huge Growth in Robot Delivery
While the coronavirus epidemic may have had a limited impact on many businesses, it could be a boon for those who are able to offer robot delivery services like Starship Technologies. Contactless delivery is a service that robotic delivery can offer, which is highly desired by social distancing mandates. Although autonomous delivery robots have been in use for some time in urban areas, airports and hotels, they are not as susceptible to the coronavirus that human delivery drivers can. This means that demand is increasing exponentially. Residents living within a half mile radius of Venezia’s New York Style Pizza in Phoenix, Arizona, could have their pizza delivered to them by a robot.
Medical and Food Deliveries during Coronavirus
Starship Technologies’ six-wheeled delivery robots were created by two Skype cofounders in 2014. They were the ones my family relied upon to deliver food during our lockdown for coronavirus. These robots can navigate through people and public places without the assistance of a driver. The novelty of the bots made it attractive at first, but then became routine when people started to order take-out or small groceries from restaurants.
A video of the robot’s delivery can be viewed here.
Starship’s bots have been in operation for many years. However, Starship is seeing a spike in interest from many companies . This includes restaurants and grocery stores as well as other delivery companies . Human delivery personnel can become ill or fear being infected with the coronavirus. These bots have completed over 100,000 autonomous deliveries and traveled more that 500,000 miles.
Self-driving vans from start-up UDI delivered food to China during the pandemic. To complete their missions, these vans and delivery robots use technology like lidars, cameras, and deep-learning algorithms. The autonomous delivery vehicles can provide contactless delivery, but they could also be the solution to the gap between the global demand for delivery (quickly), and the labor shortage in a logistics network that Alibaba is trying to manage 1 billion packages per day.
Chinese company JD.com was quick to speed-track its autonomous delivery system that looked like mini electric vans for medical deliveries during the epidemic.
Bot Delivery Coming To A Street Near You
It’s only a matter time–and the timeline has gotten an boost thanks to coronavirus -before delivery robots will be the new norm in most cities. After a successful trial run in Washington, Amazon launched Southern California in 2019. In 2019, autonomous robots will be used to complete the “last miles” of the delivery process (from the company’s local storage hub to recipient’s address). Scout, a battery-powered robot from Amazon, is approximately the same size as a large cooler. It can deliver small and medium-sized packages. It has powerful sensors that allow it to avoid obstacles such as people, pets and cars backing out of driveways. Amazon has created virtual maps of American cities to help speed up the launch of the bots. The bots will then run delivery simulations.
Amazon isn’t the only company interested in autonomous robot delivery. Many companies have already created robots to serve enclosed areas such as hospitals, corporate campuses, and universities. They may soon be visible on the streets. These bots can deliver paperwork, food, snacks, lunches, lab testing, and other items. These companies may be backed by big companies like Toyota or ThyssenKrupp, while others are offshoots from well-known companies like Segway. They are all working together to create their own niche in autonomous delivery robots.
We won’t return to “normal” after the outbreak has been controlled. Instead, we will settle into a new norm. The new normal will include autonomous delivery robots in public places, workplaces, and streets.
Bernard Marr’s book Tech Trends in Practice: 25 Technologies that Are Driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution has more information on technology trends like AI, analytics, and other areas.
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