German automotive manufacturing giant Continental AG has unveiled its solution to autonomously deliver packages to your front door: robot delivery dogs.

The robo-dogs, which bear some resemblance to Boston Dynamics’ door-opening robot, will hitch a ride on Continental’s driverless vehicle, known as the Continental Urban Mobility Experience (CUbE).

The aim is to remove humans from both the first and last mile of the delivery process.

It is hoped that the solution will meet the demands of ever-increasing e-commerce sales, with the need to transport goods estimated to one day outpace the number of humans available to carry out deliveries.

The company believes the concept will be more efficient, safer and increase the availability of goods in the parcel delivery supply chain.

“With the help of robot delivery, Continental’s vision for seamless mobility can extend right to your doorstep,” said Ralph Lauxmann, head of Systems & Technology, Chassis & Safety division, Continental.

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“Our vision of cascaded robot delivery leverages a driverless vehicle to carry delivery robots, creating an efficient transport team. Both are electrified, both are autonomous and, in principle, both can be based on the same scalable technology portfolio.

“These synergies create an exciting potential for holistic delivery concepts using similar solutions for different platforms. Beyond this technology foundation, it’s reasonable to expect a whole value chain to develop in this area.”

Robot delivery dog will face challenges

From a hardware perspective, the robot delivery dog will need to be nimble enough to manoeuvre a variety of urban obstacles if it is to be successful. And on the software front, its AI system will have to be robust enough to process sensory inputs in real time.

“The challenges to a delivery robot parallel what we already solve for in automated vehicles,” said Jeremy McClain, director of Systems & Technology, Continental North America. “Plus, delivery robots will require technology that is just as advanced and robust as our automotive solutions.”

Continental unveiled a demo video of the delivery dogs in action at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, before bringing a prototype of the robot delivery dog out on stage.

The company is not the only player in the autonomous delivery space aiming to solve the so-called final 100m problem. One such competitor is Starship Technologies with its autonomous delivery robots which, although dog-sized, are shaped like a cube and on wheels.

Robot delivery dogs better suited for smart cities

While it is unclear when the robot delivery dogs will be deployed, McClain sees the solution as an important element in future smart cities.

“There will be peaks in demand for driverless vehicles during the day. To make use of driverless vehicles outside those peak ‘rush’ hours is where robot-delivery comes in,” McClain said.

“We see great potential in our automotive technology to support robotics companies in developing autonomous delivery robots as an additional use case for driverless vehicles.”

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