GeoMate: AI-Powered HD Maps

THE LAST MILE DELIVERY CHALLENGE: INNOVATING WITH HD MAPPING

Delivery demand has never been higher, and delivery and logistics companies are working to optimize the process. The ‘last mile’ of delivery is critical, because it’s where stakeholders stand to lose the most time, and therefore, money. Emerging technology in HD mapping has the capacity to revolutionize the last mile delivery process through both automated delivery and fleet optimization.

LAST-MILE DELIVERY: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many changes in the world around us. It has played a pivotal role in reshaping entire industries. For the delivery & logistics industry, these changes have been especially pronounced. Demand for contactless same-day and next-day delivery has soared, putting pressure on companies to develop innovative solutions to meet this challenge.  

E-commerce has grown in recent years, raising expectations for last-mile delivery – the process of moving a product from its transportation hub to the end consumer – which is the final and most costly step in the delivery process. This rising demand has pushed many companies to develop novel, low-cost approaches like sidewalk robots to deliver consumer goods. Already operating across university campuses and cities around the world, these robots promise to be an efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly solution to last-mile delivery challenges.  

Despite the promise of these sidewalk robots in last-mile delivery, they still face some technical challenges. Robots require highly detailed, highly accurate HD maps for effective last mile delivery. Mapping is a challenge in complex and evolving urban landscapes, as existing maps often miss key data. Missing elements, including sidewalk networks and sidewalk accessibility, curb cuts, crosswalks, traffic flow, and sidewalk closures, can impact delivery robots. This critical gap in the data impacts the ability to effectively scale robot delivery operations and expand into new markets. 

Delivery van full of packages.

SIDEWALK ROBOTS: SAFE FOR PEDESTRIANS?

There are also regulatory challenges that come with deploying these new technologies. Most recently in late December 2021, the City of Toronto voted to ban automated robots from operating on sidewalks and cycling lanes. The decision came following a request from the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee to ban the devices, citing safety concerns.  

The decision from Toronto’s council has not been without controversy. Critics have cited concerns that such a ban could impede innovation. They argue that at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, social justice, and inflation are top-of-mind issues, these robots offer a contactless, low emission, equity-promoting, and affordable alternative to typical delivery methods. Others have pointed out that this ban limits accessibility in other ways, as these robots are able to deliver essential goods, such as food or medicine, at more affordable rates. In other words, they provide a service that may be particularly useful to seniors and people with disabilities or mobility challenges. Additionally, sidewalk robots have other uses, including snow removal. Therefore, this ban impedes an innovative plan to improve walkability for all pedestrians.  

Food delivered to front door.

WHAT'S NEXT: HD MAPS FOR LAST MILE DELIVERY

Regulating sidewalk robots is undoubtedly an incredibly nuanced endeavor requiring a balanced approach. Factors such as robot size, speed, and area of operation, among others, must all be considered. As individual municipalities weigh the obstacles and the opportunities that delivery robots provide, gaining access to high-quality, up-to-date geospatial data could be the missing piece. Mapping technology can determine which areas within a city are best suited to enable robots and pedestrians to peacefully coexist. This mitigates accessibility challenges while centering pedestrian safety and maintaining an innovation mindset.  

In this controversial field, scalable AI-based mapping tech is an integral part of responsible, informed decision-making. It allows us to maximize benefits (such as improving health, accessibility, and affordability as well as supporting innovative green technology) and limit drawbacks (including potential safety, legal, and technical challenges). Public trust and safety is paramount. And in addition, HD maps will benefit last-mile delivery stakeholders by optimizing the process.

As the conversation continues, let’s take advantage of every tool we have to find solutions that best serve our communities. Contact us – we’d love to hear about your ideas!