Robot Delivery Dogs May Be More Likely Than Self-Driving Cars

January 10, 2019

Close Up Of Man Collecting Parcel Delivery Outside Door

Self-driving cars can take a back seat to Continental’s newest automated technology: the robot delivery dog. Automotive company Continental unveiled autonomous robot dogs at the Consumer Electronics Show on Tuesday, January 8, as a safety and availability solution for package delivery.

“With the help of robot delivery, Continental’s vision for seamless mobility can extend right to your doorstep,” said Ralph Lauxmann, head of Systems and Technology at Continental, in a press release. “Our vision of cascaded robot delivery leverages a driverless vehicle to carry delivery robots, creating an efficient transport team.”

Continental plans to use its driverless vehicle, known as the Continental Urban Mobility Experience (CUbE), to carry its delivery robot dogs. The vehicle will deploy the dogs to areas that may be dangerous for mail carriers due to the weather or other conditions.

Continental isn’t the only one with this idea. Transportation company Segway also unveiled its own autonomous delivery robots at CES. But unlike Continental’s robot dogs, Segway suggests the robots could be used to deliver food, packages, and other items.

These developments may sound like bad ideas considering the recent public response to self-driving vehicles. But, as it turns out, Continental’s robot delivery dogs might actually catch on.

People are fond of robots, but only specific robots

Automotive companies have been racing to the finish line to be the first to develop a safe and efficient self-driving vehicle. Whoever wins is expected to full financial advantage of the autonomous vehicle market.

More than 73 million non-autonomous vehicles were produced in 2017 and 81.5 million were sold in 2018. Up to 41,000 ATVs were sold in the U.S. in just three months. And those are normal, everyday vehicles.

The potential for autonomous vehicles could be even greater. In fact, compared to to the predicted market worth of metalworking fluids in 2020 ($9.74 billion), the autonomous vehicle market is expected to reach $126.8 billion.

But many automotive companies haven’t noticed that not many people are at the end of the finish line cheering them on. That’s because people generally don’t want AI to have that big an impact on their lives.

A recent survey by global business news brand Quartz found that 78% of the 1,600 survey participants want robots to provide them with information. This is largely what Google, Amazon, and Apple have been doing with their smart home technology.

Survey respondents also said they would want AI to help them save time (59%), save money (51%), and help them stay healthy (50%). Only 45% of respondents said they would want AI technology to drive them.

Quartz researchers analyzed free-form survey results, too. The results found that people don’t want robots to interfere, replace, or manage their personal relationships. They also don’t want AI to share personal information, make decisions without consulting, and stifle creativity.

In short, people don’t want robots to take control. And that’s been strongly proven in Arizona where self-driving cars are being attacked by residents.

Violent backlash against autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicles have been attacked at least 24 times over the last two years in Arizona. The incidents have involved tire slashing, rock throwing, and attempts at driving the vehicles off the road.

One incident involved a man waving a .22 caliber rifle at a self-driving vehicle and the car’s emergency backup driver.

These incidents call into question whether the public would be any more welcoming to robot dogs. Surprisingly, there’s a chance they would be.

Unlike autonomous vehicles, which have come under fire due to fatal accidents involving pedestrians, robot dogs are only in control of the package they’re carrying.

Robots would also be assisting mail carriers rather than replacing their jobs, making it likely that a robotic delivery dog could very well become the Roomba of the U.S. postal service.

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