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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Status of Autonomous Last-Mile

 Had wondered the status of this, after I saw some neighborhood bans reported.  have even volunteered to look at the Nuro example and report on it in situ.  Risk of sharing sidewalks with people.  Coming back? 

Last-Mile Delivery Robots Making a Comeback After Initial Bans  

July 22, 2021 , By John P. Desmond, Editor, AI Trends  

The last-mile delivery market for autonomous delivery robots is poised to make a comeback, with startups raising money and partnerships working to get needed permission from local governments.  

The autonomous vehicle delivery market was interrupted in 2017, when the city of San Francisco instituted a ban. Some pedestrians had complained that the delivery robots crowded the sidewalks and posed a hazard to humans.  

About a month after the first bot rolled down the sidewalk, San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee proposed a ban on the use of the technology, citing public safety concerns, according to an account in ZDNet.    

“I resolutely believe that our sidewalks should be prioritized for humans,” Yee stated to the San Francisco Examiner. “We do not allow bicycles and Segways on our sidewalks.” (Segways were banned on city sidewalks in 2002, an action criticized as heavy-handed at the time.) Yee did not have the votes to pass the ban, so he settled for strict limitations at that time.  

He had heard from many pedestrians and some community activists about the risks of the delivery vehicles.  

“Sidewalks, I believe, are not playgrounds for the new remote controlled toys of the clever to make money and eliminate jobs,” stated Lorraine Petty, an activist with the community group Senior and Disability Action, at the hearing on Yee’s proposed rules. “They’re for us to walk.”  

“Not every innovation is all that great for society,” Yee stated at the hearing.  

Two years later, in 2019, grocery delivery company Postmates was given the first permit in San Francisco to test sidewalk delivery robots. The company worked with Yee for two years to get it done, according to a report in TechCrunch. 

The Postmates rover, called Serve, is semi-autonomous, with a human pilot monitoring the fleet and able to interact with customers via video chat. The robot, which has Velodyne Lidar sensors and an Nvidia Xavier processor, can carry 50 lbs and travel 30 miles on a single battery charge.  

The company worked on making Serve friendly. “We are spending a lot of time going in and refining and inventing new ways that Serve can communicate,” stated Ken Kocienda, an Apple veteran who had joined Postmates in 2019. (He now is product architect at Humane of San Francisco.) “We want to make it socially intelligent. We want people, when they see Serve going down the street, to smile at it and to be happy to see it there.”     ... ' 

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