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Posted on September 12, 2016 by Dr Peter Harrop

Delivery robots in cities soon

Autonomous Vehicles Land, Water, Air 2017-2037
Unveiled in March, the Domino's Robotic Unit is a four wheeled robot vehicle with compartments built to keep the customer's order piping hot and drinks icy cold whilst traveling on the footpath at a safe speed from the store to the customer's door.
DRU is able to navigate from a starting point to his destination, selecting the best path of travel. His on-board sensors enable him to perceive obstacles along the way and avoid them if necessary but it is,as yet, experimental.
Robot vehicles such as these may give the insurance companies and car companies something to do when one robot taxi replaces 20 cars owned by private individuals as we move inexorably to 80% of people living in cities in 2050. The main use of electric drones is agricultural for example and that can include flying over public roads and people.
Developments are coming thick and fast. Another sidewalk travelling delivery robot called Starship is being developed in the UK and it claims a number of firsts. It only uses 50W and it is the lowest cost delivery method. Insurance is not a problem. It is insured in 30 countries. Former politician Lembit Opik demonstrated the robot at the recent Barclay's Disruptive Mobility conference in London. It was remote controlled from a distance in the first trials but it will even ask members of the public for advice and assistance in autonomous mode and videosvandals. Only two incidences of vandalism have been recorded so far in 7-800 km of experience.
Electric Vehicle Energy Harvesting/Regeneration 20
It carries 40 kg and does only single missions as yet. It can cross roads.
In practice a speed of 3-4 kph average has been found to be optimal with 2-3 hours, 20 km range. He argued that delivery drones favored by Amazon and DH take too much energy and are more dangerous and contentious but his robot, unlike drones, will not be delivering to remote islands any time soon. The developers believe regulations will define size speed and degree of autonomy but not design. Commercial consistency and public safety will be the focus of regulations. They are working with EAT, Hermes in Germany and other supermarkets but corner shops are very interested because it lets them compete with the supermarkets.
Top image: Starship autonomous delivery robot. Image source: IDTechEx