Axios writes that "sidewalk delivery robots are cute and cool, but pilot tests in four U.S. cities found that it takes more than smart technology for a successful deployment."
The story goes on:
"The pilots — in Pittsburgh, Miami-Dade County, Detroit and San Jose — originally sought to examine the socioeconomic changes that autonomous vehicles might bring if widely deployed.
"The project, supported by $5.25 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, intended to test the impact of passenger robotaxis, but researchers switched to automated delivery robots during the pandemic … The cities partnered with Kiwibot, a maker of sidewalk delivery bots, to test different use cases on real streets and to explore ways to engage the community in decision-making.
"The pilots were slightly different in each city, but they shared common objectives: learn about the technology, educate the public, and collaborate with private businesses to refine robot deliveries.
"What they found: In some cases, it wasn't the robot that failed, but the local infrastructure. In Pittsburgh, for example, robots had difficulty navigating rough sidewalks with overgrown bushes. In Detroit, robots had a hard time making it across wide boulevards before the light turned red."
Axios notes that "automakers and tech giants are pouring billions of dollars into everything from sidewalk bots to self-driving cars and delivery trucks."
- KC's View:
Somehow it is not surprising that the infrastructure is not in place to handle all this new technology. Better roads, sidewalks and street crossings would make sense even if these new technologies hadn't come along, but we live in a nation where neglect of such things is commonplace. Remedying the situation at a time of economic stress isn't going to be easy, but one hopes that all that infrastructure money will be spent somewhere that it can have real impact on people's lives, not just where it will make robots' path smoother.