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Sidewalk Delivery Robots Find Their Way to Sunny California

Will self-driving robots capture shares of our delivery business any time soon? Companies like Amazon and Postmates show confidence in this being the case, as they aim towards sidewalk on-demand delivery in California. [1,2]

Starting with Amazon, their six-wheeled robot called Scout has already begun delivering to customers in Irvine, California. Scout is designed to look and feel approachable, and a part of rolling them out commercially is to study how people interact with them. Furthermore, they will be accompanied by “Amazon Scout Ambassadors” (Amazon staff), who will be answering any questions from people and taking notes about their reactions. However, there will be a limited number of robots out there, and they will be randomly selected to deliver orders placed through Amazon during daylight hours from Monday to Friday, which means that only some lucky Irvine-residents might actually glimpse this small trooper “scouting around” their neighbourhood. [1]

Higher up the coast of California, in San Francisco, the on-demand logistics company Postmates has been conditionally approved to offer sidewalk robo-deliveries. If they are granted further permits, they will become the first-ever company to begin autonomous robot-operations in San Francisco since the city voted to ban street robots from testing without official government permits. Similar to the Amazon robot, this one also has a nickname – Serve. It was first released in December 2018 but has since been upgraded with more efficient and durable sensor technology. The Serve-team aim to create a delivery robot that is socially intelligent and makes a positive impact on their surroundings and interactions with people on the streets. [2]

 

Personal comments

Interestingly, both news seems to mention the importance of analysing the results in regard to the interaction between sidewalk delivery robots with surrounding people and environment. I don’t know if this is a coincidence or if tougher regulations for autonomous robot testing require companies to handle these issues more seriously. A lot of focus is often drawn to new tech development for handling increasingly complicated traffic scenarios. However, factors like public acceptance might be just as important to include already in the testing-stages to build a viable future where robots troop our streets and sidewalks.

 

Written by Hampus Alfredsson, RISE Viktoria.

 

Sources

1. 2019-08-06. Amazon Scout autonomous delivery robots begin deliveries in California.

2. 2019-08-08. Postmates expects to land first-ever permit to test sidewalk delivery robots in San Francisco.