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Home3PL/4PLSingapore starts trial use of robot ‘couriers’ for on-demand deliveries

Singapore starts trial use of robot ‘couriers’ for on-demand deliveries

  • The trial will pave the way for wider use of autonomous robot “couriers” in making on-demand deliveries to consumers
  • Consumers will enjoy more convenience and faster deliveries, as they can choose when they want their items delivered
  • The speed for each robot is capped at walking speeds of about 5 kilometers per hour
  • Through a mobile app, consumers will be notified when the robot is en route to its destination and will receive a confirmation notification that the robot has arrived.

The future is here: Singapore is currently conducting a one-year robot “courier” trial to explore deliveries by autonomous robots of parcels and groceries to local residents in a live environment.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in a release said the new public-private trial to test the use of autonomous robots in providing on-demand deliveries is underway in the city-state’s Punggol.

The trial will pave the way for the wider use of robot “couriers” in making deliveries to consumers.

Consumers will enjoy more convenience and faster deliveries, as they can choose when they want their items delivered, instead of adhering to a fixed delivery schedule, said IMDA.

For instance, after buying groceries such as rice or diapers at a supermarket, a consumer can drop off the purchases at a concierge counter to continue shopping or dining and have them delivered to their block at a time the consumer chooses.

Other items that could be delivered through these robot couriers include perishables such as food or flowers, and even controlled items such as medicine.

The one-year trial is led by IMDA, in partnership with Housing & Development Board (HDB), Land Transport Authority (LTA), Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), logistics service provider CM Logistics, supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice and technology provider OTSAW.

The trial will see two OTSAW robots delivering parcels and groceries to the lift lobbies of seven Waterway Woodcress HDB blocks to assess:

  • Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence for autonomous navigation, obstacle detection and avoidance
  • Infrastructure such as communications systems and road networks (including connectivity and slopes)
  • Business models for commercial viability

To ensure public safety, both autonomous robots have passed the LTA’s safety assessment for the supervised use of autonomous vehicles on public paths. The speed for each robot, which weighs 80 kilograms (unloaded), is further capped at walking speeds (about 5 kilometers per hour). Each robot is also accompanied by a safety officer during the trial period.

Through a mobile app, consumers will be notified when the robot is en route to its destination and will receive a confirmation notification that the robot has arrived. The robot will also provide a QR code for recipients to scan at the collection point via their mobile phones, thus ensuring that only the authorized person will be able to access the assigned compartment and its contents.

“With the growth of e-commerce, consumers have grown accustomed to expecting food, products and groceries to be delivered to their home in increasingly shorter periods of time. Autonomous delivery robots can play an important role in augmenting existing delivery infrastructure to enhance the consumer experience and drive productivity gains,” said Kiren Kumar, deputy chief executive of IMDA.

“Urban logistics keep the city going by delivering goods to people and businesses efficiently. Employing technology to explore alternate and innovative modes of delivery is one way Singapore builds a world-class urban logistics system that also enhances land and labour productivity. This enables our city to become more liveable, sustainable and connected,” said Chiu Wen Tung, group director of research and development at URA.

Image courtesy of IMDA

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