The New Breed of Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles have made headlines throughout the last week, especially with the new permit that Waymo, a google spin-off company, received from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.  This permit gives the company access to test their autonomous vehicles on public roads in the city of Mountain View, California freely.

Though this is terrific news, we are still quite a ways away from a mass rollout of these vehicles throughout dense cities. After a death of a person in Arizona last year, process to incorporate more self driving cars into the public has been slow. Autonomous vehicles are however making headway in another industry, and that is of package deliveries. Starship, a startup founded in 2014  intends to disrupt the last-mile delivery by introducing self-driving local delivery robots. The so-called "last mile" is a problem that is faced continuously by delivery companies such as Amazon, FedEx, and all other delivery companies because it is the most variable step in shipping logistics. Consumers have become accustomed to speedy deliveries which have forced companies to increase speed to remain competitive.

The one solution that has become increasingly popular is the use of drones. Drones offer a way to deliver packages with speed and accuracy. However, due to federal law, many companies have yet to secure proper testing and commercial permits. Thus, the industry might be a few years away from reaching the consumer due to the testing and improvements that will be required. The next alternative lies in physical robots, such as Starship, that will be able to deliver packages directly to homes. The robot is run on a trained AI algorithm similar to that of autonomous vehicles and has demonstrated exceptional performances. "The robots drive autonomously 99% of the time to make safe and environmentally friendly curbside deliveries from a local hub (1)." The Starship robot is the first real application of how autonomous vehicles can make our lives easier by taking over repetitive tasks. The robots are currently able to deliver both packages and food products from selected stores in five test cities across the globe.

The most exciting part comes with a brand new announcement that Starship will be expanding in San Fransisco this winter with dates and prices being announced in the next coming weeks. Tiny robots will soon be hitting the streets delivering packages and snacks to the residence of the broader San Fransisco area.

Reference:
  1. https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/starship-technologies#section-overview

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November 6, 2018

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