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Robot Deliveries: Who is winning the race for the last mile?

Monday, 27 May 2019

Robot Deliveries: Who is winning the race for the last mile?

In the search for ways to make deliveries cheaper and more efficient, companies are increasingly focusing on the ‘last mile’. The journey from a local hub up to the end consumer is perfectly suited for the deployment of delivery robots and other innovative solutions. Quite a number of companies have already come up with some extremely promising ideas, but who is actually making the biggest strides in the right direction? Some of these major innovations are set out below.

 

The FedEx SameDay Bot

From a technological point of view, the FedEx SameDay Bot is probably the most sophisticated. It comes equipped with sensors and cameras, it can easily manage steps, and it is equipped with artificial intelligence so that it is perfectly aware of what is going on in its immediate environment. The SameDay Bot can cope with various ground surfaces, including sand, puddles, gravel, and normal street curbs, of course. Hence, it is perfectly able to reach your front door without any problem. It can deliver hot meals, shopping, medicines, and so much more besides.

 

Amazon: Prime Air and Scout

Amazon, the online retail giant, has been relatively slow off the mark in developing its own delivery robot. Why is that? With Amazon Prime Air the company initially focused primarily on drone deliveries, but as a result of strict legislation this project is still in the testing phase. Amazon only started focusing on the development of a robot much later with the Amazon Scout. A prototype of this blue six-wheeler was first introduced in January 2019.

 

Whilst in China

The Scout very much looks like the Starship robot. This was already launched in 2014 by start-up company Starship Technologies, run by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, the two Estonians who had already launched Skype. Testing of the Starship robot first started in 2015 in San Francisco and in Estonia, and it is already driving around in various cities. And what about Alibaba? Just like Amazon, this Chinese powerhouse has been slower off the mark in joining the race. In 2018, Alibaba introduced the G Plus robot, which is sometimes referred to as the ugly little brother of the Starship. The G Plus is also considerably larger compared to the Scout and Starship.

 

Google is Looking to the Skies with Wing

The Google delivery project goes by the name of Wing. In April 2019, Wing, which is a drone company owned by the parent company Google, was the first to receive official approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As a result, the drone now has permission to deliver food, medication, and small parcels from local sales outlets to the end consumer. This is already highly popular in Australia, and testing will soon go ahead in Finland.

 

The Self-driving Train in Ameland

In Ameland, which is one of the Dutch Wadden islands, they are currently testing a self-driving train that can take tourists up to their campsite, hotel or holiday home. In this way, the local islanders hope to preserve the island’s peace and quiet and clean air on their low-traffic island. The software company MWLC and the climate foundation Urgenda, who are the initiators of this project, are currently exploring whether this self-driving train could also be used for other purposes, such as waste collection and supplying local hotels and catering establishments.