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Last-Mile Delivery Automation Heats up as Temperatures Drop

By Team InOrbit

Next week will mark the unofficial start of the holiday season for many online shoppers, whether this means you’ll be skipping out after Thanksgiving dinner to look for deals, hopping on your laptop on Black Friday to avoid the long lines at physical stores, or taking advantage of your high-speed connection at the office (for those that still work in offices) on Cyber Monday

With the continuing surge in online orders expected this year, a big question will be how many packages will be delivered through robots, drones or self-driving vehicles over that “last mile”, where a package leaves a sortation center to get to a customer’s house.

Over recent years, companies have experimented with all different types of robots to cover the last mile - small, mobile ones that can fit a single order (more suited for food orders in urban areas), aerial drones (suited for rural or more urgent deliveries, such as medicine), or self-driving vehicles (such as a person’s grocery order for the week).

For each of these solutions, there are pros and cons, that particularly depend on where a customer is located. While self-driving vehicles that can deliver multiple items seem to have an early lead in terms of development and success (given how much money is being thrown at Nuro and efforts by Walmart for self-driving delivery as examples), we still wouldn’t rule out other autonomous and semi-autonomous methods for specific situational deliveries.

A big question for many of the companies that are developing last-mile delivery systems is how well they will scale. It might be easy to currently launch a small fleet of five or 10 robots making deliveries, but problems rise exponentially when you scale to hundreds or even thousands of robots. If companies are interested in package-delivery robots or drones, they have to consider if these systems can be integrated with other robotic solutions back at the fulfillment center, sortation center, or other facility. While these concerns may not seem immediate, last-mile delivery robot manufacturers and their customers need to start thinking about scale deployments now. Orchestration of robot systems will only require more integration and time needed for ultimate success as the sector grows.

We’ve thought about several of these issues, and have two opportunities for companies to explore the answers with us. First our new whitepaper,RobOps for Last-Mile Delivery Automation,” explores how evolving automation is critical for the field.

Second, we invite you to join us on Wednesday, Dec. 1, for a webinar with Tiny Mile CEO Ignacio Tartavull and InOrbit CEO Florian Pestoni, where the two will discuss several of the challenges facing last-mile delivery robots, drones, and self-driving vehicles. We hope you’ll join in for our conversation.

The last-mile delivery field is only growing, so keep your eyes peeled, maybe this season your deliveries will be made by robot.

Photo credit: Yandex Rover