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Robot Delivery Vans Are Arriving Before Self-Driving Cars (bloomberg.com) 116

The future of driverless driving looks like a giant toaster with a funny hat. From a report: That's an approximation of a new autonomous vehicle unveiled Tuesday by Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup that's been cryptic about its business plan since it launched about 18 months ago. Nuro's shiny, minimalist appliance on wheels doesn't have doors or windows to speak of, because it will be carrying packages -- not people. As every major automaker and dozens of tech companies race to replace drivers in Uber cars and taxi fleets, Nuro is ignoring humans altogether and steering for Amazon.com, United Parcel Service and any retailer looking to build its e-commerce business.
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Robot Delivery Vans Are Arriving Before Self-Driving Cars

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @03:25PM (#56035355)

    when no one is home. How do these packages make it out of the van and to my porch/lobby/mailbox?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The onboard midget

    • I think this is why a Amazon locker type solution makes more sense. It would also lend itself to automated loading of the lockers too!
      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        It does. The other way seems to be local locations where you can pick stuff up easily. For example, since start of this year one delivery company that was always a problem delivers to a local small pharmacy. The only thing the pharmacy seems to need for this is a dedicated smartphone with some app and some storage space. Works well.

    • I always found it funny that people in the US would get stuff delivered into a publicly accessible location. Around here, there would be no problem with this because you're absolutely supposed to pick it up when it arrives.
      • Pick up from where? Most of the stuff I order comes to my front door.
        • by zlives ( 2009072 )

          the local store, that you should have supported in the first place :)

          • Agreed. I don't want to see the day when there is only 2 or 3 retailers worldwide and everything has to be delivered. That's a dystopia, no matter what the basement dwellers think. Though it is handy for those with disabilities or are otherwise shut ins, but for young twenty somethings it's bizarre that this world they want.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              I think it's more bizarre to want to spend an hour driving to and from store filled with a ton of crap you have no interest in and deal with part-time, minimum-wage employees who don't give a shit about doing their job right just so you can buy the one item you wanted.

              Personally, I'd rather order the thing online, then go out and do fun things with my friends and family.

              • Where will you go? A large segment of the population is employed by these stores and their supporting industries, and that segment ranges from "menial labor only" to "this was the only job I could find". Put them all out of work, with no replacement jobs prospects and all of a sudden that park you were going to is going to become a homeless community, while the diner you were going to will be frequented by those looking for scraps out back. Never mind the reduction in jobs also means reductions in consumer

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Anonymous Coward

                  "Don't use Amazon because the world will end" isn't a great argument. Clearly people prefer to avoid the hassle of buying things in a store, and prefer to pay less for the same item. (duh). The world is going to change, some things will be better, some things will be worse. But you aren't going to stop the tide by yelling at it. Solutions to the problems you're worried about will be found or we'll descend into anarchy and that's OK too.

                • This is such a b.s., protectionist, argument. When cars were invented a lot of people slowly lost their jobs. Farriers, blacksmiths, buggy mechanics, whip makers, etc...

                  Either you adapt or you die. This is how the world has worked for all of history. Human or otherwise.

                  The GP is spot on. I DON'T want to spend my time standing in lines, looking for parking, trying to remember where-the-fuck-I-parked, and dealing with insane shoppers (black Friday...).

                  My time is valuable to me. It might not be valuable

            • by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @06:11PM (#56036581) Homepage Journal

              Time not spent driving to the store, finding parking, walking in to the store, trying to find it, price-compare on your phone, walking to the register, dealing with the cashier, payment details, bag, reciept, walk back out to the car, drive home, unload the crap, finally you get to use it? Average trip to walmart down the street is about 1 hour for 5-10 items. You end up paying more for the convenience of it being so close.
               
              Vs the time of "oh i need this" then you add it to your cart, and when you have $35 worth of stuff you click "buy" and 1-2 days later it shows up at your house. I spend a lot more time riding my bike around the lake rather than in a dumpy old store as a result. 100 years ago you would place an order with the guy with the truck/wagon, and a couple weeks later had all your goods delivered to your door. They would even extend you credit if you were a regular customer. This isn't a new concept it's just way more convenient. We go look at shops when on vacation, but other than perishables like eggs, dairy, vegetables everything just gets delivered to the house. Especially in dense urban areas where getting to the parking garage, driving across town and then spending 45 minutes looking for parking at the shops is absolute murder. No thanks. Saving $5 vs buying it on Amazon, walmart.com, target.com etc etc ad nauseam, is well worth it to my blood pressure and long term health.

              • I trust the local store, I don't trust Amazon, I don't trust the cloud, and I don't trust buying based upon a picture.m I've seen too many msall downs with destroyed economies because everyone goes to Walmart and all other stores go out of business. Amazon is like that but at a more massive scale.

              • What's going to fill your time when all those delivery drivers and cab drivers have competed successfully for your job?

                Sooner or later as a civilisation we're going to come to the conclusion that people need jobs to work in and there are already enough coffee shops.

                Giving us all $50,000 a year to live on for doing nothing will lead to boredom, and bored people create havoc.

                Never mind, nobody will believe this.
                First they came for the delivery drivers but I didn't stand up because I'm not a UPS guy.
                Yo
                • What's going to fill your time when all those delivery drivers and cab drivers have competed successfully for your job?

                  Lump of labor fallacy [wikipedia.org].

                  There is not a fixed number of jobs to be divvied up, and pointless busy work is not "good for the economy".

                  Never mind, nobody will believe this.

                  Au contraire. There are plenty of people who know nothing about economics. You are not alone.

                • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
                  So your saying we can't have nice things because you lack imagination?
          • I used to love going to RadioShack and digging through the bins of components, looking for parts and inspiration... sadly that's no longer an option :(

            • I used to love going to RadioShack and digging through the bins of components, looking for parts and inspiration... sadly that's no longer an option :(

              Go to Digikey [digikey.com], and rummage through a bin with 6 million components to choose from.

              I can believe that anyone is seriously arguing that hardware hacking was better in the "good ole' days".

          • If I'm going to drive to the store, why bother ordering anyway? I just go to the store and buy what I need when I need it. If I'm ordering something, the idea is to save fuel by having a delivery company combine trips by each driver making a few hundred deliveries a day.

            Picking up from the local store defeats the purpose of ordering online.
        • From the place in which the vehicle stops, usually. Now of course it can happen in front of your front door, and very often it does.
      • I always found it funny that people in the US would get stuff delivered into a publicly accessible location. Around here, there would be no problem with this because you're absolutely supposed to pick it up when it arrives.

        Ok...so, if they don't deliver mail/packages to your home (front door)...where do they deliver it to, and make you go to pick it up?

        • Ok...so, if they don't deliver mail/packages to your home (front door)...where do they deliver it to, and make you go to pick it up?

          To the abandoned warehouse where my mates and I block it in, quickly unload the loot into our getaway black El Darado, and make post haste to our hideout to enjoy the Cristal and caviar that we ordered.

          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            Likely more money to be made in understanding the limits of the object avoidance and guidance system, gaming them with a limited impact and suing crap out of the company. Simplest one off the cough, get big people to stand close to street corner to obscure detection around the corner, vehicle will continue to turn as person steps out from detection shadow and turning vehicle reacts to late and a minor collision with server neck and back trauma occurs. So things like blinding the vehicle, cause false impact

        • Anywhere you tell them to. (Street sides of) front doors are not really feasible for a large part of the population anyway. They will deliver it in front of your house alright, but physical hand-off is the common procedure unless the guy in the van is told otherwise, which imagine is possible but I have never instructed anyone to do so nor have I heard of anyone doing it. It's just not common.
    • The room service delivery robots [slashdot.org] will have a lot of downtime during the day, I would think...

    • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @04:05PM (#56035663)
      The only reason the packages are delivered during the day when no one is home is because delivery drivers don't want to work early mornings when people are up but still home or late evenings when most people are back from work, school, etc.

      Automated delivery vehicles have no such requirements and could easily offer delivery of packages in the early mornings or late evenings when people are awake and at home to receive delivery. Once you don't have a human driver, there's no reason to keep the same system that was subject to the constraints of a human driver.
      • by Knuckles ( 8964 )

        People still won't be home

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The app will track your position so the van can meet you when you least expect it. "You have been served"

      • so we can add to the rush hour congestion?
      • The only reason the packages are delivered during the day when no one is home is because delivery drivers don't want to work early mornings

        Incorrect - delivery drivers work the shift they are assigned, just like anyone else. Their schedule has nothing to do with the driver's personal preference.

        Automated delivery vehicles have no such requirements and could easily offer delivery of packages in the early mornings or late evenings when people are awake and at home to receive delivery.

        UPS already operates from 6 AM to 8 PM in my area; outside those hours, you're very likely to piss people off.

        • UPS already operates from 6 AM to 8 PM in my area; outside those hours, you're very likely to piss people off.

          This!

          Show up at my house at 5:00AM and you will be met by a very grumpy, and possibly armed, individual (depending on my mood).

          People who have packages stolen are, in my opinion, mostly lazy. There are all sorts of ways to secure your deliveries. I, for example, have a large, locking, metal box secured to my porch. The box has an unlocked padlock on it. When a delivery is made, the UPS/FedEx guy puts the package in the box, closes the lid, and locks the lock. When I get home, if the box is closed, I kn

          • That's pretty much the same problem as with electric cars: if you can remodel your building to adapt to your needs, you're fine. If you can't you're screwed.
      • During the daytime it is light out: lots of customers don't want delivery people coming when it is dark out and they can't tell what they are doing.

    • "when no one is home. How do these packages make it out of the van and to my porch/lobby/mailbox?"

      They use the room service hotel robot from a few articles above.

    • Why would you need to be home? This thing has wheels, it can just drive to wherever you're at.
    • Quantum Entanglement.

    • when no one is home. How do these packages make it out of the van and to my porch/lobby/mailbox?

      I have a few guesses. Ballista? Trebuchet? Catapult? Electromagnetic ramrod? No, probably none of those because that would be too awesome. More likely a smaller version of those hydraulic arms seen on the sides of garbage trucks that they use to pick up trash cans. Put the packages in cubbyholes on the interior of the van and program the system to correlate the cubbyholes to the addresses. Make it modular to accommodate different sized packages.

      I will also put my ideas for alternate delivery means in the public domain if there is a chance that I thought of something that might be worthy of a patent. I'd like to see packages delivered to my door via a van mounted robotic ballista.

      Then again, maybe I'd order an anvil for my neighbor with the dog that won't stop barking. Aaaaand I watched too many Wile E. Coyote cartoons as a child.

      • How about a drone that pops up out of the roof? Maybe the idea of the anvil for your neighbors dog could come to fruition...
      • More likely a smaller version of those hydraulic arms seen on the sides of garbage trucks that they use to pick up trash cans.

        I have to ask... How the hell close to the street are the houses where you live? Where I'm at, I'd say the average is about 50-100 feet setback from the road. Assuming they did go the hydraulic arm route, what about places where cars are parked on the side of the road (like ALL of San Diego) and there is no straight and clear path to any house.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Catapult, obviously. Why do you ask?

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      when no one is home. How do these packages make it out of the van and to my porch/lobby/mailbox?

      You misread the headline, it actually said:

      "Startup touting as yet non-existent self driving van thinks that self driving vans are around the corner".

      We're going to see robot lawyers long before robot car or van.

    • Catapult obviously. Would probably take more care than some of the stuff I've seen.

      Also more realistically the trend I've been seeing recently (particularly this Christmas) is if no one is home, you don't get your package and you need to pick it up at the depot. With so many people ordering online and delivery, thefts are way up of people just picking stuff up off people's porches. A lot of stuff unless you are there to sign for it you aren't getting it anyway.

      If you are there I'm sure the little Cylon Toas

  • I have never understood why one tries to do the car first. - its the most complex environment as there is anything from a cat to bike or other car that can suddenly get into your way. There is no fixed track, there are other participants that don't always obey the rules. Traction may vary etc. - personal cars are a margin business. Expensive sensors, computing units etc are a much larger percentage than in a truck, train, plane or ship. Its just uneconomical.
    • by Knuckles ( 8964 )

      Hubris, I think

    • The easy problem has already been solved. There have been automated subways for decades.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Possibly because there are over 17 million cars sold annually in the US.

      Imagine you're a the manufactuerer who has the first real-world ready autonomous car system. You could spin it off and sell it to other manufacturers, allowing the ones in third place and lower to leapfrog your nearest competitor. This could eventually put your stockholders in the position of receiving a royalty on most cars being made whether they're from your company or not.

    • that's why. You can occasionally pay them like crap (parts runners come to mind) but then you have to deal with ex-cons, drug dealers and retirees. When it comes to drivers your choices are paying at least 2x minimum wage or hiring basket cases or folks who don't really need the money. Businesses are eager to change that.
    • In reality, I think they will actually do shuttle buses first. Fixed route. Slow enough for folks to get out of the way (if they choose to) Minimal kid, pet, livestock, wildlife etc in road problems. That and expressway trucking -- driver takes vehicle to on-ramp, dismounts. At destination, driver takes over truck at off-ramp. A zillion details to handle. And the Teamsters Union will want MAJOR concessions. But likely doable.

  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @03:29PM (#56035395)

    I saw someone get hit by an automated pizza delivery vehicle last month when I was staying at the Medina Plaza Hotel.

    • >> someone get hit by an automated pizza delivery vehicle

      In Soviet Medina, pizza company pays you.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm an investigator looking into the insurance claim. Do you have a few moments to answer some questions? All your private memories will be kept confidential.

    • by mentil ( 1748130 )

      That's what they get for badmouthing Domino's on social media, AND keeping a tracking device on their person at all times.

    • I saw someone get hit by an automated pizza delivery vehicle last month

      eh? What's an "automated pizza" ?

  • There is one flaw: neither self driving delivery vans OR cars exist today. So arguing about which one is going to come first is pointless.
    • Think of it as brainstorming, not arguing. And you seem to be using the word "exist" loosely as both have been deployed in limited numbers.

      As to which is first to mass use, why would either need to be? A TaaS operator could use the same platform for delivery or transport and just throw the right container for the platform's current assignment onto the platform when it leaves the depot.

      If you keep the batteries in the container, this solves the charging problem. And you'll need fewer motor platforms because

  • How will they keep people who want a free ride off the car?
  • Probably driven by this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is being driven by a business need to reduce expenses. UPS driver union fighting UPS to keep self driving trucks and drones off the road is just asinine. It will ultimately cripple UPS as a company and set them back a good decade.

    Seeing any significant number (several a day) of self-driving cars in an urban area on the road way is 10-20 years off still and the day where more than 5% of cars on the road are self driving is still beyond that. Remember people, we have to cycle all the old inventory off

  • This still looks too much like a vehicle instead of a delivery system. It even wastes money on glass - curved glass! At 35 mph, are aerodynamics that important?

    My expectations for mass delivery are more along the lines of a platform that carries a couple of bots and a container that can be readily swapped.

    The platform would be an ugly looking frame contraption that supports the wheels, motors, computers, sensors, lights, bumpers, a door delivery bot or two, etc., but not the battery or anything at all proba

  • As such, Nuro believes cargo vehicles have a clearer, quicker path to profit than the 30 or so outfits that incorporate sentient beings who must emerge unscathed. “Passenger self-driving, to [these companies], is an existential threat; they have to get it right,” Ferguson said. “Whereas, for us, there are just some things we don’t need to worry about.”

    Exactly what you want to hear - we don't have to car about people inside our car..... not like they won't be walking around or driving every other fucking vehicle on the road. This is every bit as dangerous as any other self-driving vehicle.

    • The car without people can do things in an emergency to avoid harming outside humans that a passenger vehicle can not.

      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        Automated cars still have trouble just driving down the road and avoiding stopped fire engines, do you really think they have the capability to understand the scenario they are in is dangerous and divert into a tree?
  • What if I discover I'm out of towels after I call for toilet paper? Will the robot understand me when I also ask for towels as well? Will I at least get a two way conversation to the front desk?
  • I never click on the links, but did this time and was hit by a loud auto playing video ad. I need to remember to never click on the article links...
  • How would multiple autonomous vans compare to an HGV for palletised/boxed freight? With the cost of multiple drivers gone, it seems like you could ship one or 2 pallets (or 4-8 pallets in a larger van?) per cheaper-to-maintain, easier-to-accommodate and more flexible vans. Platooning might (?) make multiple vans to the same destination as cheap in fuel as a large multi-axle delivery vehicle.

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