Pilot for Autonomous Delivery Robots Begins, Austin, TX, 2021
5 minutes Date Launched: Jun 1, 2021 Dates given are approximate.
Credit: City of Austin Transportation Department
Ten autonomous delivery vehicles, called REV-1’s, are now operating through the South Congress District in Austin. Owned and operated by Refraction AI, REV-1’s are about 2.5 wide, 4.5 feet tall, and 4.5 feet long and are designed to operate primarily in bicycle lanes. Like most autonomous vehicles, the REV-1’s are guided by a series of cameras and sensors. Per a recent Texas law, personal delivery vehicles can operate at a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour and must have an operator within 25 feet when in motion. This pilot will be focused primarily on the last-mile delivery of groceries and takeout meals.
This pilot has come about after the Austin City Council passed two resolutions calling for autonomous delivery programs in 2017. Austin serves as a technological hub for the region, making this pilot opportune for the city. Throughout this pilot, it will be important to measure the impact of the delivery vehicles on the neighborhood’s transportation network. Can delivery robots decrease the reliance on cars for shopping and deliveries or will they exacerbate congestion on streets, especially for bicyclists? Safety for street users, namely pedestrians and bicyclists, must be a priority when considering the outcomes of this pilot.