The market for autonomous delivery robots is set to grow 19.2 percent through 2024, fueled by customer demand for cheap, last-mile convenience and investor interest in a hot segment of logistics.
Data from ResearchLinker shows the market is poised to nearly triple in value, from $11.9 billion in 2018 to $33.0 billion by 2024. However, the growth forecast depends heavily on how the nascent regulatory environment surrounding autonomous delivery bots shakes out. Today, a patchwork of laws handed down on the state level lay out the rules by which these sidewalk-scooting robots must abide. An Arizona law stipulates that robots are expected to behave similarly to pedestrians by crossing an intersection at the crosswalk, for example.
Initial stabs at legislating sidewalk-bound robots have required them to weigh less than 50 pounds in Virginia or under the 80-pound mark in Idaho, Recode reported in 2017. Delivery bot maker Starship Technologies waded into controversy by helping to craft those laws, effectively stifling competition from peers whose autonomous bots exceeded weigh limits or otherwise couldn’t comply with the regulations.
Most delivery bots feature four or six wheels. The latter can better handle a wider variety of terrain and steeper hills, and can roam 20 miles on one charge, though they command a larger price tag than their four-wheeled peers. ReportLinker expects China and India to lead in deploying six-wheel delivery robots, though the North American market overall is forecast to see the largest delivery bot rollouts.
Amazon recently began piloting a new delivery robot service it’s calling Scout in Snohomish County near its Seattle headquarters. Initially, an Amazon employee will accompany each of the six bots during the trial, but the gadgets are programmed to navigate on their own and ferry packages to customers autonomously.
Writing in an Amazon blog, Sean Scott, VP of Amazon Scout, said the delivery robots enable “even more sustainability and convenience” in the last mile customer journey.