Five Ways Technology is Changing How You Get Your Online Shopping and Takeout Deliveries

Five Ways Technology is Changing How You Get Your Online Shopping and Takeout Deliveries
By Kaito Au, CNN

In recent times, we’ve become accustomed to the presence of Amazon delivery vans and courier vehicles delivering packages directly to our doorsteps. However, as reported by consulting firm McKinset, the surge in e-commerce activity since the onset of the Covid pandemic has exerted immense pressure on the last-mile delivery system. This system represents the final leg of the delivery process, where packages are transported warehouses to end customers.

McKinsey’s analysis suggest that in 2020, the global count of dispatched packages exceeded 100 billion, a number that could potentially double by 2030. This rapid growth in last-mile deliveries is increasingly contributing to traffic congestion and environmental pollution.

Nonetheless, the logistics industry is responding to these challenges with innovative solutions that are revolutionizing the way we receive our packages. Here are five groundbreaking technologies reshaping this sector.

Delivery robots

Delivery robots are becoming increasingly prevalent and have been adopted by prominent companies like Uber Eats and Domino’s Pizza. The demand for service robots has experienced significant growth since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with global sales rising by 37% in 2021, as reported by the International Federation of Robotics.

In Leeds, UK, compact robots navigate sidewalks to provide grocery deliveries. Through a partnership with the retail chain Co-op, Starship Technologies deploys its battery-powered robots to customers’ doorsteps for delivering both food and packages. This entire process is seamlessly managed through their dedicated app.

Moreover, delivery robots are extending their usefulness beyond the realm of food service. In Hong Kong, a startup named Rice Robotics, established in 2019, has designed delivery robots suitable for various industries, including healthcare and hospitality.

Electric delivery vehicles

Emissions resulting from the final stage of delivery traffic, known as last-mile delivery, are projected to experience a 32% increase by the year 2030, as indicated in a 2020 report by the World Economic Forum. The prominent delivery company Amazon, a co-founder of The Climate Pledge in 2019, has made a firm commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. In Europe, Amazon has allocated $972 million for the expansion of its electric vehicle fleet, with the goal of reaching 10,000 electric delivery vans across the continent by 2025. Simultaneously, in the United States, Amazon has set ambitious plans to deploy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles by 2030, in collaboration with the electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian.

In India, electric conversion is being applied to three-wheeled rickshaws through a company named Altigreen. Similarly, Vok, based in Estonia, provides an electric cargo bike with four wheels, which is presently accessible in numerous cities, including London, Stockholm, and Copenhagen.

Smart parcel lockers

Rather than delivering directly to doorsteps, some companies are exploring the use of intelligent parcel lockers. The Belgian startup Bringme constructed its initial lockers in the Balk van Beel apartment complex in Leuven, Belgium, back in 2012.

These lockers enable couriers to significantly reduce the number of repeated deliveries to a single location, thus reducing carbon emissions. It is promoted as an efficient and eco-friendly solution to the last-mile delivery system.

In addition to being an environmentally conscious substitute for home delivery, smart parcel lockers provide secure storage when online shoppers cannot immediately receive their package. Bringme users, for instance, receive a QR code through their app when they are ready to retrieve their package. They can then present the QR code to the scanner and access their package from an unlocked compartment.

Furthermore, smart lockers can be customized to meet specific requirements. For instance, startup alfred24 has designed lockers that can adjust temperatures to accommodate cold grocery storage or hot food delivery.

Autonomous vehicles

Larger than delivery robots and boasting more cargo space, autonomous vehicles have the potential to become increasingly significant in home deliveries in the near future.

In the previous year, Uber Eats entered into an agreement with Nuro, commencing with trials of its autonomous delivery pods in Mountain View, California, and Houston, Texas.

Nuro, established in 2019 by two former principal engineers from Google’s self-driving program, has introduced its third-generation vehicle, capable of accommodating nearly 500 pounds of groceries. These vehicles feature modular inserts equipped with both heating and cooling capabilities, enabling the transportation of various types of goods. Furthermore, the vehicle is fully battery-powered and eco-friendly, utilizing 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind farms in Texas, as stated by the company.

Delivery drones

While Amazon Prime Air has faced challenges in securing full FAA approval within the United States, various other drone delivery services have already taken off. As of early 2022, more than 2,000 commercial drone deliveries were being conducted daily on a global scale, according to McKinsey, and this number has continued to rise.

In central Africa, specifically Rwanda, the US-based startup Zipline has been actively engaged in drone deliveries within the healthcare sector since 2016. In Ireland, Manna Aero has extended its drone delivery services to include a wide range of items, from groceries to orders from small businesses, successfully completing over 100,000 drone deliveries across the country. Furthermore, Manna Aero has ambitious plans to expand its operations further into Europe and the United States. Customers utilize its app to place orders, which stores then prepare and dispatch via drone.

A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University has revealed that, among various last-mile delivery methods, very small quadcopter drones (second only to e-cargo bikes) are among the most energy-efficient, resulting in significantly lower energy consumption per package and reduced CO2 emissions—up to 94% lower energy consumption per package, to be precise.