Not only are businesses are grappling to meet on-demand delivery expectations from today’s digitally driven consumers in the face of same-day delivery providers, but now society is increasingly more conscious about the safety of shipping and delivery during a time of unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic—an issue that could be resolved through autonomous delivery services.

A drastic increase in demand for home-delivery, brought on by social distancing practices, has left companies previously praised for their fast, reliable, delivery services such as Amazon, GrubHub, and Shipt, running days if not weeks behind to accommodate thousands of orders. This problem will only compound as government shelter-in-place orders continue to activate across the nation and Americans limit their movements and exposure in public places, causing the demand for the delivery of basic essentials to grow exponentially. However traditional means of delivery seldom yield progressive recourse in reliable and economical transportation. Autonomous solutions although, are presenting a steadfast alternative to meet the demands of businesses and consumers within the service-based ecosystem during the spread of COVID-19 and beyond.

Companies like Bedestrian and Refraction AI are revolutionizing the future of autonomy by using autonomous robots for systematic delivery to meet consumer demands in the hospital, restaurant, and retail industries of Michigan communities. From the delivery of pharmaceuticals, groceries, dry cleaning and carry out, autonomous delivery will soon become integrated into the everyday logistics of transportation in the state. Now more than ever, autonomous delivery presents opportune appeal because the level of contact is reduced, providing emotional security, convenience and safety during a worldwide pandemic. This model allows consumers to practice social distancing while still receiving vital goods and services. 

“Restaurant delivery ensures that people stay home, and therefore can certainly help to minimize the spread. AV delivery solutions, in particular, provide a contactless experience to further minimize the risk,” said Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CEO of Refraction AI. “We’re happy to continue offering delivery service in Ann Arbor with a small crew fulfilling orders and strict disinfecting procedures to our robots between each delivery.”

In addition to serving as a viable option to meet growing consumer demands, autonomous delivery has proven to be a fiscally responsible logistics option. According to Cerasis, traditional methods of last-mile delivery can account for 28% of a shipment’s entire cost. The use of autonomous vehicles although is a cost-efficient alternative to traditional methods and provides the lowest cost-per-mile transportation option. Compared to a last-mile human delivery, which averages $1.60, autonomous robots deliver for $0.06, a 96% savings for businesses, according to the Robotics Business Review.  

For consumers and businesses, autonomous delivery appeases a growing appetite for instant gratification among consumers and operates at a fraction of the cost of other delivery services. Today autonomous delivery robots are serving Michigan hospitals and restaurants in a capacity which allows them to meet ongoing consumer demands with efficiency. Beaumont Hospital of Royal Oak is tackling the national nursing shortage by deploying autonomous delivery to transport drugs across its mile-long campus. Other popular food delivery companies like DoorDashPostmates, and even Domino’s Pizza have also all begun experimenting with various levels of autonomous delivery vehicles to learn how to best integrate tomorrow’s logistical innovations into today’s customer service model.

“We’re building robots as quickly as we can to prepare for a higher demand in robot delivery solutions,”. said Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CEO of Refraction AI.  “Our pilot program in Ann Arbor has been very successful and we plan to launch in other cities nationally.”

With precisely engineered optimization, autonomous delivery systems are designed with the highest levels of safety and reliability and are capable of adapting and navigating through the streets of a bustling city or through a residential neighborhood in all weather conditions. Fast and nimble, autonomous delivery vehicles operate in similar stature to traditional vehicles while also designed with shorter stopping distances to prevent the risks and challenges of full-sized passenger cars.

The future of autonomous mobility is destined to serve as more than a revolutionary adaptation of traditional personal transportation, but also as an extension of the rapidly developing customer service industry. The abrupt escalation in demand for delivery resulting from COVID-19 has undoubtedly emphasized the multifaceted benefits of autonomous solutions and could streamline the integration of autonomous delivery methods long after the world has recovered. Autonomous vehicles are projected to make up 85% of last-mile deliveries by 2025 and are providing Michigan companies with an efficient value proposition to supplement their business needs. Although still in its early stages, autonomous delivery will one day become a seamless extension of the customer service experience.