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Although some authorities in varied countries are not sure about allowing machines to roam freely on city streets, most people realize it is only a matter of time before regulations accommodate the new technology of Robo-deliveries. Universities meanwhile, alongside other organizations such as hotels, airports, and large companies with extensive grounds of their own, have the opportunity to allow a relatively large number of these autonomous mobile robots to deliver such things as snacks, books, documents, and other items to students, guests, and staff. However, the matter of Robo-deliveries is more extensive and complicated than one would think (1). In the following, I will do my best to get you more familiar with this critical topic.

In general, there are three categories of delivery robot-as-a-service offerings; organized and determined primarily based on delivery mileage.

1. Public-road autonomous delivery robots

These are autonomous delivery robot vehicles that can travel on public roads and are capable of handling city-range or town-range deliveries (5-20km radius). There are pure-delivery players that have a per-delivery fee model (e.g., nuro - $5.95 per delivery); and there are hybrid delivery-and-grocery-on-wheels players (e.g., AutoX, Robomart) which charge based on grocery purchases and/or delivery from its delivery vehicles (2).

- Robomart is a San Francisco-based US company that provides autonomous "mini-mart" vehicles. Its revenue comes from the grocery purchases made on Robotmart vehicles. The firm is presently working on a pilot program in the greater Boston area with Stop & Shop.

- Nuro is a US-based firm that develops the same-name unmanned delivery robot vehicle nuro which is “a self-driving vehicle made for local goods transportation.” The firm has started a pilot program with Domino's for pizza delivery in Houston, and another with Fry's Food Stores in Arizona for groceries at $5.95 per delivery (2).

- AutoX is a US-based company that uses its autonomous delivery vehicles to supply Robo-deliveries. Their revenue model is based on item purchases at in-app and in-vehicle stores and delivery fees (2).

- UDelv is headquartered in California, United States, and provides end-to-end autonomous delivery robot solutions to merchants. Its autonomous delivery robot vehicles (ADVs) can drive at highway speeds of up to 60mph and handle deliveries of over 800 lbs. and can process up to 32 customer orders per cycle (2).

2. Community delivery robots

These are autonomous delivery robots that make deliveries within a radius of 5-6 kilometers (usually using sidewalks and small roads), and target local communities and campuses. RaaS companies in this space include Starship, HelloWorld TARS, Eliport, Marble, and Kiwibot. Most of these companies charge on a per-delivery model, ranging from $1.99 (Starship) to $3.80 (Kiwibot) (2).

- Starship is headquartered in San Francisco, United States, with its main engineering team based in Estonia. Its fleet of robots can deliver items within a 4-mile (6 km) radius, making local delivery faster, safer, and more cost-efficient. To date, Starship's fleet of robots has completed 100,000 deliveries, charging customers about $1.99 per order (2).

- HelloWorld Robotics hails from the Southeast Asian country of Malaysia, a twelve-hour time zone difference from most of the local-delivery competition. HelloWorld Robotics has developed TARS, the first autonomous last-mile delivery robot in Southeast Asia. The TARS delivery robots are being piloted in Cyberjaya, Malaysia, serving customers within a radius of 1-2 km (2).

- Kiwibot and Marble are accounted as the other well-known companies that are active in this field.

Robo pizza delivery (Image Credits: TechRepublic)

3. On-premise delivery robots

These are robots that facilitate the process of delivering food or carrying packages within a specific premise, such as a restaurant, hotel, or hospital. RaaS firms in this space include general-purpose carrier robots such as Aethon TUG or Savioke Relay and specific waiter robots such as the Pudubot and Keenon Peanut Waiter. The business model for these on-premise robots differs greatly from that of out-of-premise robots. On-premise robots are typically charged by monthly rental per robot e.g., Aethon TUG ($1.5K-$2K/month), Keenon Peanut Waiter ($650/month), Pudutech Waiter ($650/month), and Savioke Relay ($2K/month) (2).

Maybe it is worth mentioning Cruise, a reputable company that takes significant measures in different fields related to smart mobility, is teaming up with Walmart for Robo-delivery in Arizona. Cruise has yet to settle on the final number of cars it will use as part of the delivery service. The company has maintained a small fleet of five vehicles in Phoenix since 2016. It’s the latest in a series of announcements centered on the use of autonomous vehicles in last-mile delivery scenarios, underscoring a core truth about the technology; putting human passengers in robot cars is risky, but putting Walmart’s groceries and purchases in them is much less risky.

It’s the latest sign that Cruise, which is a majority-owned subsidiary of General Motors, is interested in expanding beyond Robo-taxis and into the world of autonomous delivery. The company is planning to launch a ride-hailing service in San Francisco, though it hasn’t specified by when. It has also been using its vehicles to make deliveries for two food banks in San Francisco during the pandemic. Cruise isn’t the first self-driving car company to team up with Walmart. The retail giant also has partnerships with Nuro, Udelv, Ford, and Waymo. It’s not hard to find out why, too. Online grocery shopping could grow fivefold over the next decade, with American consumers spending more than $100 billion on food-at-home items by 2025, according to a recent report. Those numbers are sure to be trending upward as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (3).

More Robo-Delivery Trials will be Witnessed on the UK Streets (Image Credits: )

With the COVID-19 outbreak, the demand for contactless delivery has grown exponentially, where many autonomous delivery robot companies have seen a huge opportunity to grow amid the coronavirus outbreak that has kept millions of people at home. In April 2020, Venezia’s New York Style Pizza in Phoenix, Arizona, is delivering the pies by first sanitizing the inside and outside of a Starship robot and placing the robot inside. The robot then travels to customers within a half-mile radius, and can even hop curbs and operate in snowy conditions (4).

The Autonomous Delivery Robots Market was valued at $0.35 million in 2020, and it is predicted to attain a value of $3.82 million by 2026, at a CAGR of 49.01% over the forecast period 2021-2026. The advent of autonomous delivery robots (ADR) is expected to revolutionize the last mile delivery systems, providing a cheaper and efficient method of delivery (4). In summary, though delivery robots have not had high adoption rates yet, they are expected to have high growth in the future, owing to their various advantages over traditional methods.






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