Robots Knockin' On the Door?

Category: Gadgets

Hordes of delivery robots may soon join bicyclists, electric scooters, skateboards, and other things that don’t belong on sidewalks (at least, in the opinions of pedestrians). A whopping 80% of last-mile deliveries will be performed by autonomous robot delivery vehicles in 2025, predicts management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. What will these delivery bots look like, and how will they get along with humans and other vehicles? Let's peer into the future...

"Mr. McCartney, Your Hot Pizza Has Arrived"

"Robots knockin' at the door, robots ringin' the bell. Do me a favor, open the door, and let' em in." That would be a good idea, because those friendly robots may be delivering your pizza, your pharmacy order, or that package you've been expecting. In the near future, robots of various shapes and sizes will be making those "last mile" deliveries.

The autonomous delivery bots that will come knocking on the door of your home or office won't look like Rosie the Robot who faithfully served the Jetsons, or the iconic Robot from "Lost in Space" though. That McKinsey report predicts that we should prepare for a world where autonomous vehicles deliver 80 percent of parcels. Let's look at some of the robotic delivery vehicles that are currently operating, what's coming soon, and how we humans will interact with them.

The Loomo Delivery bot looks like a mobile cross between a photocopier and a filing cabinet. It’s not designed to roam the streets; instead, its beat will be large office spaces. Loomo may delivery coffee, mail, or pizza from the cafeteria. It’s the brainchild of Segway PT (Personal Transportation), whose first standup electric scooter made waves in 2001. Usage of the Segway seems mostly limited to mall cops these days, but perhaps the Loomo will fare better in its niche.

Delivery robots of the near future

Release the hounds! A two-part solution is coming from Anybotics and Continental AG. Continental will supply an autonomous delivery van that packs a number of dog-like robots made by Anybotics. The dog-bots are filled with deliverables at a hub, then ferried to a neighborhood by the van. The pack of robo-hounds is released and each bot delivers part of its payload. Then they all return to the van and recharge during the trip to the next neighborhood. The agile robo-dogs can climb stairs and even ring doorbells, which is simultaneously cool and creepy.

Amazon wants in on the delivery bot game, of course. The e-commerce giant is testing a bot called Scout. Scout is about the size of a picnic cooler and travels on six wheels at a leisurely walking speed. It won’t roll up to your door, though. Instead, it stops on the sidewalk in front of a destination and signals a human to come get a package. Only six Scouts will be tested in Snohomish County. Each Scout will be accompanied by a human chaperone, who is presumably Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

FedEx calls its delivery robot the SameDay Bot. The four-foot beast can do 10 mph, climb stairs, survive potholes, and stop on a dime when it encounters a human. Still, someone must be home to remove the package from the bot, after unlocking its delivery chamber with a smartphone app. This bot will start field testing in Memphis, TN, as soon as the summer of 2019. Major retailers have signed on to the test program, including Walmart., Target, Walgreens and Lowe's.

College campuses are another target market for delivery bots. Twenty-five bots made by Starship Technologies are delivering coffee, pizza, and other meals on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Rival KiwiBot is a familiar site at UC Berkeley; the 100 bots that roam the campus and city are still welcome even after one of them caught fire.

The regulation of delivery bots is a conflicted mess. The city of San Francisco has virtually banned bots from its sidewalks except in industrial areas where few humans venture. On the other hand, the State of Arizona enacted a law affirming bots’ right to travel in public sidewalks, provided they obey all traffic laws.

It seems inevitable that pedestrians will have to share sidewalks with an ever-growing number of robots. How this sharing works out and its effect on urban culture remains to be seen. It also seems inevitable that these bots will be targets for mischief, vandalism and theft. I wonder if the robots will win this battle. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Check out other articles in this category:

Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 4 Mar 2019

For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
Is This the End of Red Lights?

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Free Tax Filing Options for 2019

Most recent comments on "Robots Knockin' On the Door?"

Posted by:

04 Mar 2019

My first concern is for security. With people stealing packages right off porches, what's to stop a thief from tampering with these robots?

Posted by:

04 Mar 2019

Due to the package theft problem I expect that a lot of the "last mile" of deliveries will involve the recipient going to a series of lockers at a Quiktrip (or some place like that). The robots will fill the lockers and the recipient will get a locker number and code in a text or email.

Posted by:

04 Mar 2019

I would miss giving my postal person a Christmas card, and if the 18-wheelers are driven by robots, then how will all those 'real drivers' get paid? I do like people getting paid so they can pay taxes! There is no 'free lunch', like we are now being told.

Posted by:

04 Mar 2019

Of greater concern is safety for pedestrians. Pedestrians behave far less predictably than cars and can move and change direction with far less warning and more "freedom". How will these cope with :
people jumping out of doorways, or just changing direction
people being pushed
kids playing - include balls and other toys moving into robot path
the blind
just to name a few?

Posted by:

Paul Rosenberger
04 Mar 2019

And how do the people who now deliver get along without a job? Who will pay for their 'welfare?' I hope it has so many problems it fails. Paul

Posted by:

Jay R
04 Mar 2019

Time to pull I, Robot off the shelf and review the Laws of Robotics. Actually, I can Google it-

The three laws of Robotics:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
2) A robot must obey orders givein to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Perhaps I could get a delivery robot with a charger and two batteries. That would be a package deal.

Posted by:

04 Mar 2019

@ Kate on her concerns of security and people stealing and tampering with these robots: The solution is to arm them all as a deterrent.

Posted by:

04 Mar 2019

Good luck in rural areas. I once wanted to do a book with the name of the county I live in as the title. For YEARS I NEVER saw a road sign stand more than 48 (often less than 24) hours without bullet holes in it. One page shows the new sign, opposite page shows it after 1-2 days. I found it quite hilarious how the county would think it could replace a sign. ONE stop sign at a VERY rural 'T' intersection lasted a week before it was shot up, and the next week a chain saw finished the work. "When will they ever learn . . .?"

Good luck where I live now - radio shadow, long dirt driveway, unmarked addresses, hard to navigate around vehicles to get to non code cement pathway to house, non-code stairs, and my office at the back of the house unable to hear anyone at the door which doesn't have a door bell. There are hundreds of thousands of us who live in about the same way -- I won't even go into my 'driveway' and house in the middle of NW Nevada or the many, Many folks who are 'Off the Grid', some by choice, others because there's no practical access to services (care to run and maintain a 7 mile 'Farm Line' for your phone, or lay and maintain 10 miles of power line?).

The house I describe is just a few miles outside a fairly large town of about 2,500 people that's only about 10 miles or so from a larger town of about 3,200 people - with the same kind of problems I have here. And I am on the grid. Up stream many are forced to live off the grid because of the cost of power-phone (same problem, cell phone radio shadow or phone service as reliable as 1951 Italy). Walk half a mile up the drive way and the shadow disappears and you can get a strong two bar connection. When it's not raining or snowing.

Also -- a bot that needs a person with it? The ONLY advantage I see to that is that it will give - hopefully average pay jobs to the mild-to-moderate disabled people who have a hard time finding employment.

Posted by:

Sharon Scian
04 Mar 2019

The lawyers will have a field day. People walking and texting tripping over these "creatures". I would think some sort of security system would be built in that would send a signal for tampering, theft, get out of my way or mischief. Doubt I'll see one in my area in my lifetime, I'm old, so am not going to waste my time thinking about this.

Posted by:

05 Mar 2019

Yes indeed Harold; there is NO free lunch and no "free shipping",either.

Posted by:

Gary SE Wisconsin
07 Mar 2019

Yet another solution looking for a problem or an answer to a question nobody asked.... As to this stupid idea and self-driving cars, I ask that you remember what your info screen image looks like in your car when the backup camera lens is dirty.... Not going to work in the real world people!

Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! Comments of a political nature are discouraged. Please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are reviewed, and may be edited or removed at the discretion of the moderator.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter

Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
About Us     Privacy Policy     RSS/XML

Article information: AskBobRankin -- Robots Knockin' On the Door? (Posted: 4 Mar 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved