- The delivery robot market is expected to grow from $11.9 million in 2018 to $34 million in 2024, according to a recent report by MarketsandMarkets.
- Robots with a load capacity of about 22 pounds will be mainly adopted by local restaurants since these robots weigh about 55 pounds and are the right size to deliver meals to customers in short ranges.
- The North American market is likely to have the largest share of delivery robots, with millions of dollars invested in robotics projects and ongoing demand from the retail industry, which can use these bots to reduce labor costs.
As the delivery industry works more with restaurants to innovate and improve upon existing technologies, many companies have been adding autonomous solutions to their delivery fleets. Bots are particularly beneficial to short trips, which are not cost effective for restaurants and third-party providers. Instead of a customer paying a $10 minimum order, bots could allow for fast food restaurants to deliver value menu items and small orders, for example.
DoorDash, which partnered with Cruise for a self-driving delivery fleet last year, previously partnered with Marble for a robot fleet in San Francisco and also could be expanding its fleet in the future. Postmates plans to test delivery bots on Los Angeles sidewalks this year, and tested delivery robots in Washington, D.C. in 2017.
Robots are already starting to invade college campuses. Starship Technologies unleashed a fleet of 25 robots at George Mason University. These bots will deliver food to students, who can use their meal plans to pay for snacks. College campuses are ideal testing grounds because of the shorter distance to travel and the fact that their private sidewalks don’t have the same regulatory burdens as city sidewalks. In 2017, San Francisco went so far as to ban autonomous robots from sidewalks, instead requiring a human to operate the bot within 30 feet.
Delivery robots may still have a ways to go before they become common pedestrians. In addition to convincing cities they are safe around humans, they also need a lot of computing power to process data from the exterior environment to properly navigate around objects. Last year, tech startup Marble developed a robot with three-times the computing power of its previous semi-autonomous version, allowing the bot to process more data and even go fully autonomous, according to Wired.
But with an expected growth rate of 19% annually until 2024, there will be plenty of robots undergoing testing and refinement. The more robots in production, the less expensive they will become to use, making them an even more viable solution for small order delivery.