Four pilot projects in cities across the country demonstrated some of the everyday challenges faced when deploying small autonomous delivery robots. The infrastructure a device needs to navigate can be a major constraint. Self-driving sidewalk delivery robots may not be ready yet, despite the promise of futuristic show-offs and pandemics, but it might surprise you why. Four collaborative pilot projects using small delivery bots in cities across the country have found problems ranging from basic issues like incomplete or broken sidewalks to operational limitations of the robots themselves. understood.
“There are still many barriers to broad deployment,” said Nico He Larco, professor of architecture at the University of Oregon and director of his Center for Urbanism, an urban design research institute. Even if there is,” he said. “This seems to be the case with most of these new technologies. Field operations are much more chaotic”. Urbanism Next partners with Cityfi, Knight Foundation, and the City of San Jose, California. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Miami-Dade County and Detroit formed the Knight Autonomous Vehicle (AV) initiative to deploy and test his Kiwibot delivery device in each city.
The pilot project ran for approximately 3-6 months in 2021. When the project was conceived, organizers originally planned to use self-driving cars. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the requirement for touchless delivery, causing many transportation observers to speculate about the potential scalability and use cases of autonomous technology in the space of on-demand delivery. But what the four different pilot deployments seemed to highlight is the many considerations and details that need to be considered before this technology is accepted by both buyers and companies that outsource products to robots.
“An interesting finding of this study was how important it is for the public and private sectors to work together. There’s a lot going on…more needs to happen,” Larco said. The public sector is primarily tasked with setting policies that allow devices to operate safely on public pathways. But that also means determining delivery zones, ensuring sidewalks are adequate and undamaged, educating the public about the device, and holding community events to address concerns. In both San Jose and Pittsburgh, Kiwibots hit obstacles and fell.
In Detroit, the robot had trouble crossing wide intersections because the traffic lights changed too quickly. Limited use in Pittsburgh with heavy rain and snow. These are some of the random but very specific obstacles that need to be considered before the device becomes more widely used, researchers say.
- As much as technology, infrastructure can limit delivery robots
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