Swiss-Mile created an innovative robot that combines legs and wheels. The company aims to make it the world’s most versatile last-mile delivery robot. This robot developed by ETH Zurich’s Robotic Systems Lab spin-off can even transform from a quadruped to bipedal in seconds (1, 2).
The delivery robot, which has been developed over the past five years, can reach speeds of 13.87 mph (22.32 kph) and is incredibly efficient and versatile. Also, it can carry an assortment of payloads, including materials, tools, foods, and sensors, up to 110 pounds (about 50 kg).
We believe Swiss Mile’s delivery robot and similar robotic delivery mechanisms can become even more essential in the future in reducing traffic and improving the overall delivery time. In addition, it also has the potential to improve air quality in several urban centers worldwide.
Close to 60% of the population living in urban cities needs fast, reliable, and last-mile delivery that is also clean (all-electronic most likely), small-scale autonomous solutions like Swiss-Mile as cheaply as possible.
Of course, in part, we can achieve the same with airborne drones; however, ground-level delivery robots offer invaluable advantages in situations like delivering heavier loads and items with awkward packaging.
At the same time, these robots can “stand up” and use their front legs/arms to gram packages and put them into cargo compartments all by themselves. On the other hand, drones and other delivery solutions may need human input for some or all of such tasks.
As delivery robots have been approved in several US states, we can expect investments in this technology to grow further in the future, on par with the e-commerce demand.
We are also witnessing record investments in grocery delivery services (3). Since these robots can improve the efficiency of last-mile delivery, we expect to see soon such advanced mobility solutions arriving at your doorstep.
How Does the Swiss-Mile Delivery Robot Work?
“Our robot, with its both legs and wheels, can outperform state-of-the-art wheeled delivery platforms and lightweight drones. It is the only solution that has the capacity to carry tools, goods, materials, and sensors with speed and energy efficiency over long distances. It can also overcome obstacles and challenges like steps and stairs with seamless navigation in indoor and outdoor urban environments,” said Swiss-Mile.
“It is a car, quadruped, and humanoid,” explained Marko Bjelonic, roboticist and ANYmal developer at ETH Zurich (4).
The robot’s capacity to transform its modes in a matter of seconds is one of its unique selling points. For urban cities, it will prove invaluable as it can overcome challenges like staircases without interrupting delivery times.
The addition of wheels is also a game-changer compared to other delivery robots and drones available in the market today. The company claims that the wheels make the delivery robot 83% more efficient than legged systems (5).
Notably, it is also packed with several special sensors and a powerful AI control system which allows the robot to plan the best routes and learn over time.
We do not have any information about its price; however, reports suggest that the company will avail the delivery robot commercially by the end of this year.
In short, Swiss-Mile’s delivery robot can reach speeds up to 13.87 mph (22.32 kph) and offers the capacity to carry up to 110 pounds (about 50 kg). It can even plot routes and learn over time with a sensor-equipped AI system. The robot can transform models within seconds. It can climb staircases and even call an elevator, uniquely adaptable to indoor and outdoor urban environments.
Such fully-electric delivery robots have the potential to reduce urban air pollution since researchers estimate that last-mile delivery makes up about 20% of the total air pollution in urban cities (6).
The Last-Mile Delivery
Besides Swiss-Mile, several other names have also developed their autonomous delivery robots. It includes Alibaba, whose robots are becoming prominent in everyday life in China (7).
Another such robot is created by UPC and CARNET, a research hub in Spain specializing in mobility, funded by the Volkswagen Group, SEAT, and the UPC itself.
Last-mile delivery accounts for over 20% of the pollution in cities, and researchers believe we can tackle this issue with more efficient autonomous electric delivery robots.
Researchers also believe that these devices can lower transportation costs, accounting for over 40% of delivery costs (8).
According to reports, factors like urban congestion, local regulations, and lack of parking spaces for loading and unloading commercial vehicles make the management of urban last-mile delivery expensive for logistics companies.
However, an autonomous delivery robot would indicate “a significant reallocation of the carriers’ costs and would make the last-mile delivery service more economical and efficient than other conventional methods.”
Combining Delivery Robot with Last-Mile Data
It was a hassle for essential services like medics and firefighters to find parking in sports where they could easily access places in need in the past.
The scenario is different today with mobile devices that inform them of the best route to reach the place and the best parking spot (9). It means they no longer have to flip through physical printouts and can now even come up with a plan before they are even rich there.
And no, these individuals are not using Google Maps.
Instead, these firefighters rely on routing technology created by Beans.ai, one of several companies working to build unique datasets and AI-based software to make the final steps make delivery speedier and more efficient.
And since the pandemic fueled the use of quick-commerce services and increased delivery expectations in general, the routing data and apps created by companies like Bean.ai can help businesses optimize delivery dispatch, routing, and other logistics-related activities.
For instance, Beans.ai has integrated its technology with FedEx Ground, allowing delivery contractors who pay about 25 USD per driver to upload daily delivery locations to generate routing information for their drivers.
Hunting for last-foot data would also pay off as the rise of quick-commerce delivery services has spurred immense competition and development in the delivery-routing tech sector. More established companies, including DoorDash, have been gathering logistics data to train their delivery fulfillment apps’ models for years (10).
Last year, Coresight Research estimated that retail sales in the overall quick commerce market in the US had reached about 20 billion to 25 billion USD. And to compete in terms of speed promises, companies in the quick-commerce industry need more accurate data tools to deliver items to people rapidly, or they will risk losing out to customers who can switch to other services.
And we believe that if a bipedal robot that can call elevators, climb staircases, and ring doorbells are combined with this technology, delivery robots could reach your doorstep quicker than ever.
Want to read more about robotics companies? Here’s an external link.
Innovation and Expansion
Delivery robots are already being approved worldwide, and the industry is ripe for innovation as more ecommerce companies look for the next big thing.
It will only spread further as e-commerce giant Amazon is also planning to expand its Prime Air drone-delivery program to launch 12k flights this year to deliver 500 million packages by air a year (13).
A report from Mordor Intelligence also suggests that while there is low adoption of delivery robots, they are estimated to have high growth in the upcoming years, owing to their various advantages. It valued the autonomous delivery robots market at 0.35 million USD in 2020 and expects it to reach a valuation of over 3.83 million USD by 2026, at a 49.1% CAGR (14).
Another estimate from Facts & Factors suggests that the autonomous delivery robots market will reach 55 billion USD by 2026 with a 20.4% CAGR (15).
Since the total ecommerce market is set to cross the 1.2 trillion USD mark this year, we can only expect the use of experimental delivery robots to grow.
The increasing affordability and high ROI can drive the growing adoption of the autonomous delivery robot. Last-mile deliveries have been a major concern for businesses when it comes to the supply chain. They are getting more complex in cities amid continued growth in ecommerce and high customer expectations for faster and more frequent deliveries.
And owing to these challenges, more retailers have been looking for a better and more efficient delivery method.
Most businesses have also realized that a superior last-mile experience retains and engages customers better. However, it won’t help their tight margins since last-mile delivery costs absorb most of their profits. Hence, the delivery robot can help these companies achieve efficient last-mile delivery.
There are estimates that by 2025, 85% of last-mile deliveries will be done using autonomous delivery robots. We certainly look forward to getting our next package from a delivery robot. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!