This autonomous delivery robot has external airbags in case it hits a person
Autonomous delivery was already on the research and development agenda of several companies before the pandemic, but when people stopped wanting to leave their homes, it took on a whole new level of urgency (and profit potential). Besides the fact that the pandemic doesn’t seem to be abating – note the continuous parade of new variants of Greek letters – our habits have been changed in a lasting way, with more people shopping online and having groceries and food delivered to them. other items to their homes. .
This week, Nuro, a robotics company based in Mountain View, Calif., unveiled what it hopes will be a major player in last-mile delivery. The company’s third-generation autonomous delivery vehicle has some impressive features, and some smart ones, like external airbags that deploy if the vehicle hits a pedestrian (which hopefully won’t happen too often, if ever). ).
Although it’s about 20 percent smaller in width than the average sedan, the delivery bot has 27 cubic feet of space inside; for comparison, the tiny SmartForTwo has 12.4 cubic feet of cargo space, while the Tesla Model S has 26. It can carry up to 500 pounds and travel at a speed of 45 miles per hour.
Nuro is committed to minimizing its environmental footprint – the delivery robot runs on batteries, and according to the press release, the company will use 100% renewable electricity from wind farms in Texas to power the fleet (although it it’s unclear how they’re going to do this, as Texas is quite a distance from Northern California, and that’s where the vehicles will initially run; Nuro is likely buying credits that go towards wind power expansion in Texas).
Nuro’s first delivery robot was unveiled in 2018, followed by a second iteration in 2019. The company recently partnered with 7-Eleven to perform autonomous deliveries in its hometown (Mountain View) using this second iteration, called R2 – although in the initial phase of the service, deliveries will be made by autonomous Priuses.
The latest version of the bot is equipped with sensors that can tell the difference between a pile of leaves and an animal, as well as the number of pedestrians standing at a crosswalk in thick fog. Nuro says the vehicle “was designed to feel like a friendly member of the community.” It sounds a little dystopian – it is, after all, an autonomous robot on wheels – but the intention is in the right place. Customers will pick up their orders and interact with the bot using a large exterior touchscreen.
Whether an optimal future is one where any product we want can be delivered to our doorstep in hours or minutes is a debate in itself, but that seems to be the direction we’re headed in. Nuro will have plenty of competition in the last-mile delivery market, potentially including an Amazon system that releases multiple small wheeled robots from a large truck (Amazon patented the concept last year, but it’s unclear more if they plan to test it). Nuro is building a manufacturing facility and test track in Nevada, and is currently in the pre-production phase.
This article is republished from Singularity Hub.
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