With the rise in online shopping and the desire for contactless delivery sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, demand is growing for low-speed automated delivery vehicles to deliver packages or food to your doorstep.
In a new report, Guidehouse Insights says it expects the increase in demand for robot deliveries to continue post-COVID-19. The research company defines low-speed automated delivery vehicles, or ADVs, as those that carry payloads of less than 250 kilograms (551 pounds) and travel on roads or sidewalks at speeds of less than 30 mph.
The report says global deliveries by these automated vehicles are projected to grow from fewer than 7 million this year to more than 51 billion by 2030, an annual growth rate of 170 percent.
The vehicles fall into two categories: One is robotic delivery vehicles, or RDVs, which can travel on city streets, typically at a top speed of about 15 mph. The three-wheeled REV-1 from Refraction AI falls into that category, as does the R2 by Nuro, which partnered with Domino’s to deliver pizzas in Houston in April.
At the smaller end of the ADV spectrum are sidewalk delivery bots from providers such as Kiwibot and Yandex, a Russian company that has used Ann Arbor, Mich. — home to the University of Michigan — as a test bed. Yandex this month announced it was joining Grubhub’s campus-delivery program, which covers more than 250 colleges in the U.S.
Sidewalk delivery bots often resemble rolling coolers, have about a cubic foot of cargo capacity and move at a walking pace. These little robots may win in the cuteness department, but Guidehouse says robotic delivery vehicles — with their extra space, lower operating costs and ability to operate on the road — are expected to surpass their sidewalk-strolling cousins by the middle of the decade and become the preferred delivery robot.
According to Guidehouse, deliveries made by robots are projected to become a “prominent feature” in key global markets starting around 2027 or 2028. Deliveries have begun to emerge in North America, China, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, with robots that have a high Level 4 automated-driving capability.
China is expected to become the leading market for these delivery bots because of the size and growth of its parcel- and food-delivery markets and the nation’s strong demand for same-day deliveries.
The report names some key industry players that have been involved in robotic delivery ventures, ranging from FedEx, which announced in 2019 that it had developed a self-driving “SameDay Bot,” to Panasonic, which late last year said it was field-testing a low-speed robot delivery service in Fujisawa City, Japan.
“Low-speed ADVs have attracted the interest of major online retailers such as Amazon and Alibaba as a unique solution to the increasing need for short, on-demand deliveries,” said Sagie Evbenata, a Guidehouse senior research analyst. “Furthermore, as lightweight zero-emissions vehicles, low-speed ADVs can provide significant environmental benefits.”