In the realm of automation, where innovation meets industry, a groundbreaking revolution is sweeping through the landscape of automated guided vehicles (AGVs). Traditionally confined indoors for tasks like intralogistics and material handling, AGVs are breaking free into the great outdoors, driven by advancements in navigation technologies and the emergence of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). IDTechEx forecasts a 250-fold increase in annual revenue from autonomous delivery vans alone, soaring high from 2023 to 2044, representing a significant potential market.
There has been a significant increase in investments in outdoor autonomous delivery robots such as delivery vans, sidewalk robots, and drones. According to the database of IDTechEx, cumulative investments for delivery vans have skyrocketed a 653-fold from 2015 to 2022. Amidst this whirlwind of innovation, industry giants are making waves, such as Waymo’s driverless vehicles driving through the streets of San Francisco and Starship Technologies’ sidewalk robots operating on the pavements of Cambridge, UK. This is not merely a glimpse into the future; it is a technology that has never been closer to our lives like today.
IDTechEx’s latest industry report, “Mobile Robotics in Logistics, Warehousing and Delivery 2024-2044“, introduces pilot projects and cities that are united to offer last-mile outdoor autonomous delivery services. Despite this rapid growth, driven by funding trends and the latest industry news, a pivotal question is: Are autonomous last-mile delivery robots truly safe and efficient?
Recently, the commercialization landscape has witnessed an exhilarating surge with market news like Serve Robotics going public after securing a staggering US$30 million, and retail giant Walmart started to offer drone deliveries for select customers in Arizona, Florida, and Texas. Flytrex, a leading last-mile drone delivery company, has received the green light from the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to launch its automated drone delivery services.
However, amidst the rapid growth, challenges persist. Regulations and technological immaturities cast a shadow over this revolution. Take, for instance, Amazon’s drone tests. On June 21, 2023, during a pivotal test at the Pendleton site, an Amazon drone made an emergency landing in a field and was destroyed. It is also reported that the drones ignored operators’ instructions in another test, raising critical questions about their reliability.
The challenges are not limited to drones; even ground-based vehicles face technical hurdles. Starship Technologies’ sidewalk robots often find themselves ‘queueing’ at traffic lights and getting stuck on icy pavements. The hurdles are real, but so is the determination to overcome them.
Amidst this electrifying dance between sky and ground, how does one choose between last-mile delivery drones and sidewalk robots? IDTechEx interviews active market players ranging from robot OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), component (e.g., battery and rotors, etc.) suppliers, and regulatory bodies. When assessing ground-based vehicles and drones, serval metrics can be considered: maximum delivery range under full payload, local regulations (e.g., altitude, buildings nearby, etc.), technology readiness level (TRL), maximum possible payload, cost-effectiveness, and how often does the autonomous system need human intervene. The table below briefly summarizes a few key benchmarks.
In addition to the technologies and regulations, IDTechEx also delves into the choice of items delivered. Ground-based vehicles dominate the realm of food and grocery delivery, thriving in urban spaces with fewer regulatory hurdles. On the flip side, drones soar high in healthcare deliveries, racing against time with unparalleled speed and conquering challenging terrains. It’s a nuanced dance of specialization, where each innovation finds its perfect niche.
To find out more about IDTechEx’s technical and commercial analysis of mobile robotics in the logistics industry, please see their market research report, “Mobile Robotics in Logistics, Warehousing and Delivery 2024-2044“.