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Contactless Delivery Robots May Soon Hit A Sidewalk Near You

Grocery-delivering bots tackle a simpler challenge than self-driving vehicles. But there are still some challenges yet to be worked out.

The following is an excerpt from Fast Company. Click here to read Rob Pegoraro’s full article.

The future of autonomous vehicles is coming slower than expected—maybe less than 10 miles per hour.

But delivery robots don’t need to move even that fast to take groceries to customers. Where they’re going, they may not even need roads, just sidewalks. And now their inhumanity isn’t a bug but a feature for pandemic-weary shoppers anxious for touch-free deliveries.

Promising though these bots are, they have gotten into mishaps, some as simple as the occasional case of a robot getting stuck before a kind human frees it. Sidewalks and streets themselves can complicate a delivery robot’s life, even though the Americans with Disabilities Act’s mandate for step-free surfaces should ease their path.

Lisa Nisenson, vice president for new mobility and connected communities at West Palm Beach design firm WGI, says that “mobility lanes” for vehicles slower than traditional cars may not answer this problem. Imagining one occupied by, among others, a 10-mph delivery robot, a 17-mph driverless shuttle, and an 18-mph electric bike, she asks, “Who passes whom, and is the road really wide enough?”

What happens when there are 10 or 20 of those?” asks Larco of the streets of tomorrow. Nisenson takes that question further: “What happens when there’s 100?”

Read the full article and find out more about what other mobility specialists had to say about the delivery robots and their impact here.

The First Starship Robot Delivery in Redwood City, California

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Nisenson, after decades in the field as a consultant, researcher, activist, entrepreneur, and planner, was recently named VP for New Mobility & Connected Communities at WGI, a firm with huge aspirations for the future.


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