Automation in mail delivery was already on the horizon. But the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has just accelerated the process of deploying robots to deliver packages due to the emphasis on minimizing human contact. Dubbed as the autonomous delivery robots, it can operate in a small distance that Japan Post is testing.
The red-colored small self-driving vehicles are using built-in sensors and cameras to deliver packages. During the test runs that began on September 18, the robots, named as DeliRo can travel to a store from the post office and back within 700 meters. It has a top speed of six kilometers per hour and can carry up to 30 kilograms of weight. The robots are developed by the Japanese company ZMP.
DeliRo's artificial intelligence platform can use its sensors and built-in cameras to dodge obstacles such as utility poles and humans on the pavements and stop at traffic lights. As per Japan Post, the test run will run through October 2020 and if it is successful, it could be deployed by 2021. At present, Japan doesn't allow autonomous delivery robots but a successful test run of DeliRo can change that as the government will evaluate its stance, Kyodo News reported.
Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic in early January, many countries went into a complete lockdown, forcing people to depend on online services. However, last-mile delivery was still dependent on humans. But they delivery persons obviously didn't feel safe about that.
In many countries, logistics and e-commerce companies are trying to solve the last-mile problem by implementing robots. This way, it can not only reduce costs but can also increase efficiency. In the U.S., many e-commerce platforms utilized Starship's delivery robots to ship essential goods like medicine, food and vegetables.
FedEx is also testing its robots Roxo to deliver packages during the pandemic. Such robots are small and can only travel within a few kilometers at max. FedEx Executive Gloria Boyland said the company was testing Roxo for its same-day, point-to-point deliveries in Memphis. Those six-wheeled robots that are based on iBot, a wheelchair that can climb stairs, can carry cargo up to 50 kilograms.
Similar robots are also being tested or used in the U.K., France, Germany, Singapore, China and in many other countries while Amazon has also been testing drones for deliveries that re being tested in a few countries.
Will It Cost Jobs?
While it seems like a blessing during the pandemic, with a recession and subsequent job cuts will force you to rethink delivery robots' existence. Companies that depend on the last-mile delivery hire thousands of temporary to permanent workers. But robots that are aimed to bring down the cost by eliminating delivery persons will definitely cost them their jobs.
Even before the pandemic hit the job market hard and shifted to minimize human contact, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would not let robots take away the jobs.
"First of all, FedEx never get a robot to do a New Yorker's job. We have the finest workers in the world. Second of all, we didn't grant permission for these to clog up our streets. If we see ANY of these bots we'll send them packing," he said in a Tweet.
However, the demands of such robots will definitely force authorities to rethink and when artificial intelligence further develops, robots replacing humans will be inevitable.