How Do Delivery Robots Work? How They Safely Deliver Your Packages
A distant future involving robotic package deliveries is now very much a reality. Advances in robotics, GPS tracking, automation, and navigation now mean you might not find a delivery person at your door with your package.
You might find a delivery robot instead.
With semi-autonomous robots beginning to enter the world, here’s a look at how delivery robots work.
What Is a Delivery Robot?
A delivery robot is an automated robot that brings your delivery directly to your door. These robots aren’t walking and talking humanoids; rather, these robots are cute delivery containers on six wheels, resembling giant (but friendly-looking!) bugs.
As with other delivery services, you make your purchases through an app with vendors based on your location. The robot trundles to the vendor—whether for shopping, food, drinks, or otherwise—and then it makes its way to your home.
How Does a Delivery Robot Work?
The primary example of delivery robots in action comes from Starship Technologies, a company based out of San Francisco with engineering facilities in Estonia and Finland. Starship Technologies is the brainchild of Skype co-founders Janus Friis and Anti Heinla, and they are currently the largest “last mile” delivery robot company around.
So, how does an autonomous delivery robot make a delivery?
The robots have a cargo capacity of around 9kg, can travel at a maximum speed of 4 mph, weigh around 25kg, and cost over $5,000 to manufacture. The delivery robot uses many of the same features as an autonomous car: 10 cameras for 360-degree vision, several ultrasonic sensors, GPS navigation, measurement units, gyroscopes, and much more.
How Do Delivery Robots Navigate?
The route between a vendor and a delivery point might look A-to-B if you plug the locations into a navigation app… but there are extra considerations for a delivery robot, including sidewalks, crossings, driveways, humans, animals, vehicles, and so on.
Starship’s robots calculate a route based upon the shortest distance and satellite imagery detailing the route. Each feature on the route (crossings, driveways, etc.) receives a time calculation, which the robot factors into route selection and delivery time.
Over time, the robots build a collaborative memory of an area, creating a wireframe map of constant features (buildings, crossings, statues, pathways, etc.) and ensuring that future journeys through the area are faster. The collaborative area-building makes navigation easier for every robot in the vicinity, with all units contributing to building out the local map.
But navigation isn’t always smooth sailing. Aside from regular navigational dilemmas, a malfunctioning robot comes with its own problems. For example, a Starship robot in Milton Keynes malfunctioned—and drove straight into a canal.
Does Anyone Control the Delivery Robot?
While the Starship...