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The future is automated: A new era in logistics and last-mile delivery

Dematic deploys mobile robots for e-commerce in Netherlands
Dematic deploys mobile robots for e-commerce in Netherlands

A pivotal study titled ‘Robots at Your Doorstep’ sheds light on the future of automated delivery systems. It also discusses customer attitudes towards emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles (AVs), bipedal robots, and drones. 

The researchers – Maher Said, Spencer Aeschliman, and Amanda Stathopoulos – say robots are leading a “technology-driven transformation” to meet the growing challenges of last-mile delivery

New tech in last-mile delivery

By analyzing data from 692 US respondents, they constructed a model to assess preferences towards emerging technologies, and nuances that go into logistics decision-making. 

Using an Integrated Nested Choice and Correlated Latent Variable model, the research team found that businesses’ willingness to adopt new technologies (such as drones, robots, and AVs) is linked to cost, and how long it would take to complete a task. 

The cost and time of robotics

For example, when a drone delivery is fast and free, people are more likely to give it a go even if they’ve never used drone delivery before. However, if the delivery options are too expensive or take longer, shoppers tend to fall back on traditional delivery methods. 

In general, shoppers seem more forgiving of delivery times when it’s a traditional truck delivery, whereas they expect faster delivery from automated options such as AVs and drones.

This shows that shoppers might be interested in trying new logistics technologies, but only if it doesn’t cost them more money or time. 

AVs versus bipedal robots

Surprisingly, consumers generally have a positive attitude to AVs, while bipedal robots were not the most popular technology among respondents.

But the study also found that people mentally group drones, sidewalk robots, and bipedal robots together, while viewing AVs as a separate delivery category. So, if one of these three becomes successful (drones, for example), it could positively influence how the other options (sidewalk robots, and bipedal robots) are seen. 

This is helpful for companies planning to introduce robotics, perhaps by focussing on the perceived successful trend before introducing the other options. 

The bigger picture

The study offers a glimpse into the future of automated last mile delivery. While people are interested in new delivery technologies, they will only switch permanently if the services manage cost and delivery speed. 

They expect faster and more convenient performance from AVs and drones than they would expect from a traditional truck delivery. Thus, a balancing act is required when embracing new technologies to align it with consumer expectations. 

As the logistics industry evolves, these insights will be critical in shaping efficient, customer-centric, and sustainable delivery solutions.

About the author

Cheryl has contributed to various international publications, with a fervor for data and technology. She explores the intersection of emerging tech trends with logistics, focusing on how digital innovations are reshaping industries on a global scale. When she's not dissecting the latest developments in AI-driven innovation and digital solutions, Cheryl can be found gaming, kickboxing, or navigating the novel niches of consumer gadgetry.

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