Autonomous Delivery 🍕🚗
Nuro and Domino's partner up to deliver pizzas using autonomous delivery vehicles.
Welcome to a new episode of Year 2049, your weekly guide to the events, discoveries, and innovations shaping the future of tech, climate, science, and more.
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Is it just me or was the Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp outage on Monday really calming? For a few hours, it felt good to be disconnected. Maybe we should shut down social media more often.
On our trip to the future this week, let’s explore how companies are using a new delivery method to solve some of their biggest problems.
Hope you enjoy this one.
Time to read ~ 3-5 minutes
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Domino’s Pizza 🤝 Autonomous robots
Domino’s Pizza has become one of the first companies to test autonomous robots to deliver food after partnering with the startup Nuro. My favourite pizza chain (sorry Pizza Hut) is piloting Nuro’s R2 robot in a Texas neighbourhood with customers who opt-in to this option when ordering online.
How it works
After placing your order, Domino’s cooks your pizza to perfection as usual. But instead of giving it to a delivery driver when it’s done, they place it inside an R2 vehicle. The R2 then drives itself to your house and can only be unlocked with a unique PIN that is sent to you. After entering the PIN, the robot’s doors open majestically and you can grab your pizzas.
And don’t worry, the robot wouldn’t be talking back to you and or asking for a bigger tip (for now).
The startups in this space
Nuro has raised $1.5 billion USD from investors such as Softbank and Chipotle since it was founded in 2016. The R2 robot they developed is a road vehicle meaning it will use the road just like any regular car.
Starship Technologies and Kiwibot are other notable startups focused on autonomous deliveries. However, the two startups are focused on smaller robots that operate strictly on sidewalks. These are currently being piloted on some college campuses and will be super handy when delivering snacks to students studying late into the night.
Why do companies need these?
When it comes to ordering online, we want our stuff delivered the fastest and cheapest way possible, regardless of whether a human or robot does it. However, companies are realizing that robots like the R2 can solve many problems of their problems at once:
High delivery costs: The “last mile” is the most time-consuming and expensive of any delivery process. According to an Accenture report, the last mile accounts for 53% of the total shipping and delivery costs. To cut costs and deliver things faster, companies like Domino's and FedEx have started experimenting with autonomous robots that deliver packages straight to your door.
High carbon emissions: The ever-increasing standards of fast delivery times are pushing companies to have more delivery vehicles on the roads around the clock. Replacing gasoline-powered trucks with electric robots can help companies reduce their carbon emissions.
Demand for contactless deliveries: The COVID-19 pandemic and the need for contactless deliveries have only accelerated the demand for autonomous delivery robots. Contactless deliveries have already become standard over the past year and a half and could remain long after the pandemic is over.
Although autonomous driving has not become mainstream yet, smaller and slower delivery robots provide a safer playground to help make this technology safer and more reliable. The algorithms that run these vehicles require lots of training data to help them learn about the endless complexities of driving and navigating in the real world.
In the long term, these delivery robots could bring us closer to accepting and feeling safer around larger autonomous vehicles like cars and trucks. There are also clear environmental benefits for using these vehicles to reduce the number of delivery vehicles on the roads.
What do you think of autonomous delivery robots? Leave a comment and let me know.
If you liked this week’s comic and story, here are some additional links to satisfy your curiosity:
Domino’s Pizza delivery with the R2 (Domino’s Pizza/YouTube)
Starship robot deliveries on campus (Starship Technologies/YouTube)
The Sustainable Last Mile (Accenture)
FedEx to test self-driving vehicles for drop-offs (Retail Brew)
Interview with Nuro’s CEO (Yahoo Finance/YouTube)
If you missed the previous episode
I hope you enjoyed today’s comic and story! Next week, I’ll be talking about an important technology that will affect your smart home devices.
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