While we often understand mobility as the ability to move or travel freely, new technological innovation and alternative transport modes are trying to work the other way around. Bringing goods and services to people can potentially reduce needs for commuting and offer accessible and inclusive solutions for people with mobility difficulties. Robotic goods delivery is being tackled by a wide range of companies starting with giants like Amazon or new start-ups like Robomart and Starship. The latter has launched a service in a second UK town, Northampton, by partnering with local Co-op’s Wootton Fields store. The service will serve customers within a three miles radius and could potentially reach 5,000 households. The Co-op said it planned to use up to 300 of Starship’s robots by the end of 2021.
Although autonomous robots have been in operation for years, only last year and circumstances brought by the pandemic led to a significant rise in demand. Many companies are experiencing a surge of interest coming from restaurants, grocery stores, and other delivery service companies as human delivery personnel either get ill or fear getting infected by the coronavirus. A recent study from the USA suggests that public attitudes towards self-driven robots is predominantly positive with higher income and education being positive predictors and gender being weakly correlated with willingness to pay for autonomous delivery.
Robot deliveries could help improve road safety, energy efficiency, urban accessibility, social inclusion and reduce congestion. Moreover, they offer sustainable, low-emission solutions for future cities working on emission reduction targets and mitigating the global warming crisis.
Pani, A., Mishra, S., Golias, M., & Figliozzi, M. (2020). Evaluating public acceptance of autonomous delivery robots during COVID-19 pandemic. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 89, 102600