Singapore is testing the use of autonomous robots in providing on-demand courier deliveries.

The one-year trial, which is expected to pave the way for wider use of autonomous robot couriers, is led by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (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.

Autonomous robots will allow consumers to choose when they want their items delivered, instead of adhering to a fixed delivery schedule.

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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 HDB 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 trial will see two OTSAW robots delivering parcels and groceries to the lift lobbies of seven Waterway Woodcress HDB blocks. This is intended at assessing technologies such as AI for autonomous navigation, obstacle detection and avoidance; infrastructure such as communications systems and road networks (including connectivity and slopes); and 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 kg (unloaded), is further capped at walking speeds (about 5 kmh). 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 authorised person will be able to access to 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, IMDA.

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“We continually seek new opportunities to better serve our residents and shoppers, including leveraging innovative technologies such as the last-mile delivery by autonomous robots. By supporting this initiative at our first new-generation Neighbourhood Centre, Oasis Terraces, we hope this will provide for greater convenience and enhance the retail experience for about 700 residential households at Waterway Woodcress,” said Kee Lay Cheng, Group Director for Properties and Land, HDB.

“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 (Research & Development), URA.

Image Credit: IMDA

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