Autonomous Delivery Robots
Autonomous Delivery Robots
  • Reporter Song Sung-chan
  • 승인 2019.10.18 15:05
  • 댓글 0
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▲A Kiwibot in front of a university campus
▲A Kiwibot in front of a university campus

 

With the advent of artificial intelligence technology, self-driving cars have been put under the spotlight. When self-driving technology is discussed, people generally think about it in terms of human transportation. However, there is a different aspect to the self-driving technology that will improve people’s quality of life: the autonomous delivery robots.
Delivery is a big part of modern life. People’s reluctance to step outside their doorsteps has significantly catalyzed delivery service industries as the success of Amazon illustrates. Amazon uses a very convenient shopping method as it delivers purchased products not only anywhere in the U.S.A., but also internationally with a short delivery time. Amazon, being on the frontier of delivery services, is trying to enter the autonomous robot delivery service. There are two types of automated delivery services that Amazon is testing: Amazon Prime Air and Amazon Scout. Amazon Prime Air is an airborne delivery service using a drone, the other, Amazon Scout is an on-road delivery service using a six wheeled, electric powered robot that is about a size of a small cooler. They are currently being tested as a last-mile delivery solution, since covering the full delivery route is hampered by the robot’s battery limitations and delivery speed.
The reason that Amazon and other companies or start-ups are desperate to implement autonomous delivery vehicles is simple. By using autonomous delivery vehicles as last-mile delivery, labor cost are significantly reduced. According to McKinsey & Co., delivery costs in cities can be reduced approximately by 40%, saving companies parcel delivery costs. Also, as everything is done through computers and transmitted data, human errors are eliminated.

▲Kiwibot Application
▲Kiwibot Application

 


As Amazon is testing its autonomous delivery robots as a means of last-mile transportations of products bought online, there are also other cases of autonomous delivery robots being used for food delivery. One of the known cases is the Kiwibot used in UC Berkeley and other campuses. Kiwibot started its service in 2017 and has made over 35,000 deliveries. Kiwibot has more than 150 delivery robots and advertises its service as reliable, friendly, and efficient. Kiwibot’s robot has four wheels, a custom GPS to track its location, six cameras for computer vision, a Jetson TX2 to process data and determine its driving directions, a digital face for better human-robot interaction, and swap-able batteries that last five hours.
The way Kiwibot works is simple. First, a customer opens the Kiwibot application. On the application screen, nearby stores are listed and the delivery time is estimated. When the customer selects a menu and pays, a Kiwibot picks up the food and delivers it to the given location. When the customer notifies that the robot arrived properly through the application, the robot opens up the container and completes its delivery.
Although many big companies and start-ups are trying to implement and expand the autonomous delivery robot system whether it is airborne or on-ground, their journeys are not without challenges. One of the biggest challenges is regulations. As of Amazon Prime Air, the regulations are as follows: 1) drones cannot fly above 400 feet, 2) drones cannot fly faster than 100 miles per hour, 3) in many places, drones cannot fly at night. Although the regulations are applied in order to protect people from the imperfect drone technologies, the fact that they are hampering the advancement of airborne autonomous delivery system is undeniable. As of the Kiwibot and other on-road delivery robots, challenges are due to imperfect technologies as well. Because of fallible traffic navigation, Kiwibots often collide with pedestrians. Thanks to its low speed, the pedestrians are not injured by the collisions, but those imperfections prevent Kiwi Campus from getting permits to operate inside university campuses.
Even though implementation of an autonomous delivery system is challenging, people are not giving up. From big companies like Amazon and Uber to startups like Kiwibot and Starship Technologies are all striving to improve and expand their service everyday. As technology improves and autonomous driving becomes safe enough to use around pedestrians, customers will be visited by cute little robots on their doorsteps every time they order goods.


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