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Autonomous delivery in retail

Self-operating robots to take the retail industry to a higher level of efficiency and quality


Every other Wednesday, h/commerce provides in-depth analysis of the most impactful trends reshaping retail.

During the last few years our way of purchasing has completely changed. Delivery services have increased, therefore, the face-to-face shopping has diminished. Today more and more purchases are made online through digital platforms. As a result, it is becoming important for retailers to find new and efficient solutions to deliver to their consumers. The” autonomous delivery” is seen as a good solution.

Companies like Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, or UPS, among others, are improving the way they carry out delivery solutions and they experiment with robots and drones to transport and deliver packages.

To clarify; automation is projected to become a routine in retail and commerce on a worldwide scale. 

Amazon Scout

Amazon began designing its prototypes a few years ago, when the autonomous delivery service was not as known as today. However, the covid 19 crisis has somehow been beneficial for the increase in the delivery sector and, therefore, has accelerated the development of the autonomous delivery solutions.

Amazon’s autonomous robot is called “Amazon Scout”; it is an electric robot no bigger than a cooler which goes from warehouses to customers’ houses in a fast and efficient way. “Scout” counts with a 3D software  that ensures a safe navigation around obstacles while making deliveries. Moreover, Amazon uses various simulations to accelerate autonomy learning and development. 

The team deployed six Amazon Scout devices  to observe and analyze their performance on U.S. streets.  

Last September, the enterprise Co-Op partnered with Amazon in a bid  to make the groceries delivery service faster. In conlcusion, this partnership will enable Amazon’s consumers to do their Co-Op grocery on and be delivered at home quickly. 

Social Commerce

Source: Geeko

Alibaba’s Xiaomanlv

Alibaba saw an opportunity to address the challenges of online shopping and delivering in 2015, and from that moment on, the company started to explore autonomous driving technology.

The company has certainly created its autonomous delivery robot- “Xiaomanlv”- which is providing favorable results: each device is able to carry 50 packages at a time and cover 100 kilometers on a single charge, delivering about 500 boxes a day. Today, Alibaba is operating with 200 robots, however, their goal is to produce 10,000 robots in three years’ time. 

The CEO of Alibaba ensures that they can applicate advanced algorithms in order to accomplish and execute a mass and economic deployment of their autonomous robots across communities. Overall, the company is investing a third of the industry general income in Xiaomanlv.

Source: Alizila

Walmart autonomous robot

Walmart started an autonomous delivery pilot, teaming up with Gatik, which has been operating in this sector since 2019. The company also works with FedEx to test autonomous delivery robots. 

In addition, in 2021, Walmart announced a partnership with the big automotive company Ford and Argo AI to develop a self-driving vehicle to execute an autonomous delivery service. The result of these partnerships is the creation of an autonomous box truck for grocery delivery in the United Sates. 

Nowadays, GM’s is also establishing a partnership with Walmart to promote its vehicles and to include them in the autonomous delivery experience. 

Source: Walmart

Why is it interesting?

The development of autonomous delivery technology has encouraged many industries to start executing autonomous solutions. Some big e-commerce and retail companies have started to fill the gap created because of the consumer’s new purchasing behavior and their new need for instantaneity. 

In addition, this new practice has also involved the automotive industry, the technology industry and the logistics industry. Among the major actors from the logistics sector, we can name DHL or FedEx, which have developed their own autonomous robots to establish partnerships with potential clients, which normally are big sized companies as those previously mentioned. 

To sum up, we can say that the birth of this new delivery solution will help to solve some logistics issues among which we can find the ecological footprint the parcel delivery is causing, the high cost of transportation, the delays due to traffic or the disability to reach areas that are not well located. 

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