While the COVID-19 Coronavirus has crippled the world with about 75% of the people confined to their homes, many industries, different types of industries are facing a lot of trouble keeping up. Human to human contact is down to the bare minimum so people are coming up with new ways to still function during this pandemic. One of the tools that they are doing it is through robots.
Many places around the world are using robot deliveries as an alternative to human deliveries. At the epicenter i.e. Wuhan, China, robots were used to deliver food supplies and medicine to many parts during the quarantine. Autonomous shuttles in the United States which were developed by the French company NAVYA are now repurposed to deliver COVID-19 tests.
Though some of them are autonomous, most of these robots are controlled by humans. But overall, these unoccupied vehicle-delivery makes a lot more sense now rather than diluting all the delivery activities. What’s more, this robot-delivery system may and up being a common theme even after the pandemic for these places and maybe many more.
The public failed to take the concept of delivery robots seriously these past few years it has been in operation and usually was seen as a joke for many. However now, it is the only commodity that people can use for deliveries. But there is a small catch.
While humans who used to deliver food and products to people came right at the door, be it work or home, robots need you to go outside to get your stuff. And since these machines are broadly autonomous, this is said to take away a lot of delivery jobs form humans which might be a problem later on. But as a matter of fact, these robots are not so “autonomous” as they seem.
There is a certain company which made a business out of this situation. Phantom Auto made sure that the self-driving systems have a ready human control if there is ever a need for that during an emergency.
The company uses a teleoperation system which is used to control cars, trucks, forklifts, and now even delivery robots. It is also currently working with Postmates to take this novelty further and making it sure that the deliveries go where they need to go.
Phantom Auto co-founder Elliot Katz spoke, “We provide software that enables delivery robot companies to remotely monitor and/or remotely assist and/or remotely drive their fleets of delivery robots from up to thousands of miles away,”. This is not a lone-venture in any way as the company is working with other partners too.
The system uses humans have controlled surveillance on these robots so that the humans can help if the robots face a situation it can’t get out of. The drivers can be remote and can handle quite a few robots and chip in when needed.
This totally removes the risk of the drivers interacting with anyone while delivering essential goods. While many people, in general, can work from home, delivery drivers can’t, until now where they can sit indoors and control these delivery machines to get to the destination they need to go to.
Not only is it beneficial for these drivers but the company as well. This sort of novelty is now garnering a lot of interest in the company now. Katz also said,” “Supply-chain tech, which is what we are, generally speaking: everything is going to change post-coronavirus,”.
Other companies are now into this fray of interest as well. Refraction.ai co-founder and CEO Matt Johnson-Robertson are now in pursuit to change how restaurants work and how they do business.
He said, “I’m a huge patron of restaurants, and I would like all my favorite restaurants to still be around.” Another huge bonus for these businesses is that these robot deliveries now bring down the cost of deliveries by half. Many of the main food services like UberEats, GrubHub, Seamless would charge up to 30% with the refraction at 15%.
Now, however, not only will this help in reducing friction and saving costs for restaurants, this novelty can even be a huge public health benefit. Johnson-Robertson says that his company is now making some changes in order to work with the new reality.
The changes include the installation of UV lights in its vehicles and moving to no-touch. Whenever a delivery arrives at the destination, the customer receives a text. The customer then replies to that text and the door of the vehicle opens without any extra efforts.
Refraction.ai is also looking to expand its operations in services like grocery delivery and delivering items to elder-care facilities. Grocery deliveries especially have seen a huge spike nowadays as people are unable to go out and get those for themselves.
More importantly, for the older people who would have compromised immune systems, this probably is the best way for them to reduce contact with anyone and receive their necessities safely.
Refraction.ai also has human monitors who can chip in to help whenever needed. They have used modem boxes that have been sent out so that the drivers can work from home. The company is also building new robots as the demand for these is surely about to rise in the coming times. “We have the different pieces of the robot assembly process on different floors in the building so everybody has their own floor and they’re using their own bathroom,” said Johnson-Robertson.
The NAVYA vehicles being spoken about earlier are used extensively in the state of Florida. These vehicles originally were supposed to move humans around and these autonomous vehicles drive along a set route without any interaction with other traffic.
This new form of reality is now helping people stuck at homes get their supplies at homes themselves in a safe manner. People are soon set to get accustomed to this new form of the delivery mechanism. In the current time, delivery robots certainly look like the necessity, but it is set to become a common trend even after the pandemic ends.