Cities around the world are starting to use self-driving vehicles and delivery robots to reduce transportation emissions. At the same time, climate change is one of the most pressing concerns facing the global community today, as transportation plays a major role in carbon emissions.
Bringing the two trends together, many scientists, engineers and policymakers believe that delivery robots and other autonomous vehicles could hold the key to reducing emissions. However, this strategy may have some challenges to overcome before it can become mainstream.
Delivery robots grew in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, when more people ordered food and goods for delivery than ever before. Businesses and delivery drivers did not have the resources or staff to meet demand in many areas. Robotics and engineering companies have responded by launching delivery services powered by autonomous vehicles. Robots offered the perfect solution at the time as they also minimized exposure to Covid-19.
It’s an interesting turn of events for autonomous vehicles, especially delivery robots. The city of San Francisco banned delivery robots from its sidewalks in 2017. Yet, just a few years later, Pennsylvania is one of a dozen US states that have officially legalized delivery robots on public streets from of 2021. Pennsylvania classified robots as pedestrians rather than vehicles.
This indicates the long-term impact that the Covid-19 pandemic will have on delivery robots. They remained popular even after the mass closures. They are convenient and efficient and can help reduce carbon emissions. There are a few main reasons for this.
Can robots help reduce emissions?
One of the main advantages of delivery robots over cars or delivery vans is their significantly lower energy consumption. These robots are much smaller than a normal vehicle and run on electricity instead of gasoline. Its use drastically reduces carbon emissions from transport.
EPA studies show transportation accounted for 29% of U.S. carbon emissions in 2019. More people are working from home and shopping online, and demand for delivery services will continue to grow in the years to come. Autonomous battery-powered robots could reduce the amount of emissions created by increased delivery transportation.
Behind the scenes, the way autonomous delivery robots are programmed and operated could further reduce their energy needs. They drive and navigate using artificial intelligence algorithms, which plot the most efficient routes the robot can take to reach its destination.
Even if you use the same routes as a delivery vehicle with a human driver, you will make your deliveries much more efficiently. As a result, they could compete with full-size delivery trucks, making many small trips around communities instead of just one big one.
Delivery robots may not completely replace conventional vehicles, but they can significantly reduce the time these cars have to spend on the road.
Studies have shown that various autonomous delivery methods, including road and sidewalk rovers and aerial drones, are more efficient than their conventional counterparts across the board. Efficient and effective electric transport systems will be key to reducing carbon emissions in the years and decades to come.
However, there are still potential challenges that delivery robots may face. San Francisco’s robot ban is a perfect example of the security issues that many still have. A Michigan senator shared similar skepticism in a 2020 interview with WIRED on the subject, citing the danger robots pose if they perform poorly on the job.
Also, delivery robots are not the same as autonomous delivery vans. They have a fairly low carrying capacity, which limits the number and type of deliveries they can make.
Presumably robots need to stay within a certain radius of a hub or charging station, so they are also limited in their potential range. This could slow adoption, especially in areas away from major cities.
It should also be noted that even though the delivery robots themselves are powered by electricity, the source of this energy may not be green. These robots must run on clean electricity to be carbon neutral and maximize emissions reductions; for example, maybe your charging stations could be powered by solar panels.
This is a key concern that will need to be addressed as its use expands. However, the key to tackling climate change lies in new technologies that allow people to live greener lives.
Robotics is one of many examples that have the potential to heal the environment and prevent emissions from causing further harm. Delivery robots may seem like a concept straight out of science fiction, but they’re already roaming the streets.
These robots could pave the way for a new generation of autonomous electric vehicles that will completely transform the way humanity views transportation and its impact on carbon emissions.
By April Miller. Articles in English