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Parcel delivery robots

December 12, 2015

I was thinking about how we would deliver goods in a hypothetical ban-cars world, and realized that people on bicycles carrying stuff are not a bad model for what robots might also deliver on vehicles of modest size. Because we don’t normally see huge deliveries on small vehicles we tend not to think that it’s possible, or even when we do see it shuffle it into the ignorable category of “crazy”. But it is possible and it happens, whether we believe it’s “crazy” or not, and if you want to think about what a small robot vehicle might be capable of, it helps to remember that a human is a somewhat idiosyncratic 250 watt motor, and that a robot running a 250 watt motor and carrying 100lbs of batteries has similar capabilities.

So, what can humans carry on bicycles?

Haley Trike and 400 lbs of sand (video)

a chicken coop

a trailer full of Citibikes

a ludicrously large pile of stuff

a mattress, table, chair, and box

People carrying that much stuff don’t move very fast, but they move, and there’s no particular reason for a robot to travel quickly either; there’s no driver being paid by the hour, and it reduces the risk and severity of any possible crashes.

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