Robots come in all shapes and sizes, and we are getting a greater variety of autonomous vehicles year after year — or even month after month — as well. They are slipping into more and more locations, and rather than taking over cities in a big explosive way, are performing more services incrementally.
I recently wrote that Uber and Lyft are now using Hyundai IONIQ 5 electric vehicles led by Aptiv brains to provide autonomous taxi service in some markets. Hyundai is also doing some work on the brain side and with very different vehicles. The Korean company is deploying some very cute little autonomous delivery vehicles in Seoul for last-mile deliveries.
This is a pilot program for now. The stars of the show are Plug & Drive (PnD)-based robots. They are being deployed at the Rolling Hills Hotel in order to deliver food, drinks, and other goodies to guests’ rooms between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm. But how do they use the elevators, you may ask. Through AI and connectivity with the elevators, they can order the elevators up and down without having to stick out a long, thin arm or something. They can also recognize customers with some type of deep learning tech that is integrated into their computer brains.
The customers use Kakao Talk, a messaging app that is popular in Korea, to place the orders, and then can track the delivery process in real time. “The robot in service at the hotel uses a deep learning-based algorithm to recognize the surrounding environment and people. When the robot arrives at the room it recognizes the opening of the door, and once it perceives the recipient, it automatically opens the storage compartment for them.” It really feels like the future now! But we’re not done yet.
“The robot can communicate appropriate screen messages and in a befitting tone of voice based on the recipient. In addition, when moving between floors, the unit can determine the number of people boarding an elevator and wait for the next elevator if the first one is crowded.”
But that’s not all! Aside from the hotel pilot program, the PnD-based robots are also being used in a mixed residential/commercial development for last-mile deliveries as well. Woowa Brothers, which operates the Baemin food delivery app. Woowa Brothers and Hyundai Motor Group hav actually been working together since March 2021 to develop and refine what the robots can do. The robots are being used to deliver food to customers on the outskirts of Seoul. And the pilot program has been going so well that the partners are now looking to add operating hours and add robots — though, the precise numbers are not provided.
But how does the robot get loaded with the customer’s order? That may be more fun to witness than the delivery process. Once the robot receives an order through Baemin, it goes to a local shopping center to find the product!
The robot includes a storage area for the food or goods being delivered. It also includes an information screen for customers so that they can see some details of their order and confirm they’re the designated customer. Here are a few more details on the robots being used:
“First shown at CES 2022, the Group’s PnD modular platform is an all-in-one single wheel unit that combines intelligent steering, braking, in-wheel electric drive and suspension hardware, including a steering actuator for 360-degree, holonomic rotation. It moves autonomously with the aid of LiDAR and camera sensors.”
“PnD-based delivery robots allow quicker delivery times with improved safety through the use of autonomous driving technology, including fast obstacle avoidance capabilities,” said Dong Jin Hyun, Head of Robotics LAB of Hyundai Motor Group. “We plan to keep upgrading mobility services, convenience, safety and affordability for customers through our pilot programs.”
Hyundai Motor Group expects that these little robots will help improve the efficiency of the delivery process. What do you think about this robot and these two pilot programs? Also — why doesn’t this robot have a cool name yet, and what should it be?
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