New autonomous delivery vehicle designed to operate like a bicycle


The REV-1 is already delivering food from two Ann Arbor restaurants and making deliveries to the company’s employees. In the coming months, the company plans to expand its delivery service to the general public. Once service expands, Refraction AI will find itself competing in an increasingly busy space alongside big name companies like Domino’s Pizza, Uber, Waymo, Walmart and Amazon that are vying for territory and experimenting with new ways to deliver food to customers.

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With enough space inside to hold about four grocery bags, the REV-1 is one of the smallest and slowest autonomous delivery vehicles on US roads. By comparison, Nuro’s R1 autonomous vehicle — which has been delivering groceries in Houston, Texas and Scottsdale, Arizona since last year — can reach 40kmph (65 km/h) and is about half the width of a Toyota Corolla.

Because of the vehicle’s larger size and ability to reach higher speeds, engineers designed it to “prioritise the safety of humans, other road users, and occupied vehicles over its contents,” according to the company.

Unlike some of it’s competition, the REV-1 doesn’t rely on an expensive and complicated suite of navigational tools like lidar sensors. Instead, the vehicles rely primarily on multiple cameras, radar and ultrasound, allowing its creators to reduce the cost of the vehicle to around $US5000 ($7235).

For now, the REV-1 is making deliveries between 1km and 4km away, a distance that could allow Refraction AI to tap into a market of customers eager for safe and quick last-mile delivery solutions, Bob Stefanski, managing director of eLab Ventures, told TechCrunch.

“Their vehicles are also lightweight enough to deploy more safely than a self-driving car or large robot,” Stefanski said. “The market is huge, especially in densely populated areas.”

Washington Post



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