Are Delivery Robots Coming?

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Jan 29, 2019 06:54
Updated according to mar's comments.

Amazon has been showing its delivery robot, called Scout, recently. Not long ago, Amazon, as well as many AI startups, were blowing a lot of hot air about their fancy delivery drones. But now we can confidently say that the delivery drone fairy tale has ended. At least neither I nor any of my neighbors will be getting packages delivered by drones. I have never placed much hope on the delivery drones. It's totally impractical since the cost of delivering is dramatically higher than the cost of packages. Furthermore, drones are too expensive to be left alone. Were the service attempted in China, no delivery drone would make it back home.

So how about delivery robots? Although practical economically speaking, delivery robots are technically more challenging than drones. Drones don't encounter many obstacles in the sky. The key technology for delivery drones is collision avoidance, which is totally feasible nowadays. However, delivery robots require a level 5 autonomous driving system, a fully autonomous system that can operate by itself without any human intervention. So far, no one has delivered a system capable of achieving this level. A demo robot that runs along a testing route is quite far off from being a practical system. Most likely the delivery robots will do nothing but catch the eye of some visitors to some exhibitions. And that's how the hype has been created.