Autonomous delivery robots: not on the sidewalk, please

Unlike autonomous car applications, the operational area of urban service autonomous robots like autonomous delivery robots (ADRs) is not clearly defined. Moreover, assessing the feasibility of various operating scenarios is difficult due to large variations in the different robot designs, specific local infrastructure, and regulations.

A new paper presents a prototype evaluation methodology based on Open Street Map data for assessing ADR deployments considering one-to-many delivery schemes. Four robot configurations and potential operational specifications are modeled and evaluated in a sample of German cities. The bandwidth of considered robot types ranges from large ADRs operating on roadways to small-size systems using sidewalks. However, the reduced accessibility limits the performance of the first category in areas with higher traffic. On the contrary, small ADRs present a higher detour time but increased accessibility.

The operational scenarios show diverse performance depending on the considered metrics and cities. However, for all the metrics considered in the paper, sidewalk ADRs offer poor performance compared to other potential ADR deployments.

The result shows a heterogeneous outcome for the individual robot classes in different cities. While in some cities, small and medium robots can access most inhabitants with little detour, other cities showed significant gaps in coverage. For the final evaluation of a city or a neighborhood, a differentiated investigation is necessary that combines the road/path network with a robot rule set. This data-intensive process cannot be shortened by using alternative parameters (node/edge count, component count, largest component size, and density of people in the neighborhood) as indicators for determining robot readiness.

Source: Plank, M., Lemardelé, C., Assmann, T., & Zug, S. (2022). Ready for robots? Assessment of autonomous delivery robot operative accessibility in German cities. Journal of Urban Mobility, 2, 100036.

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