This week, Serve Robotics announced that its sidewalk delivery robot can now complete deliveries at level 4 autonomy. According to the company, this makes their robot the first autonomous vehicle to complete commercial deliveries without the need for human assistance.
For those not familiar with autonomous driving parlance, level 4 autonomy means that Serve’s robot can now navigate a trip without the intervention of a human driver. However, as seen in the video below, at level 4, a human driver can choose to intervene to ensure an extra level of safety (as the Serve driver does at a crosswalk light).
Watch as Serve Delivery Robot Achieves Level 4 Autonomy
According to the announcement, this milestone is the result of a robot built with a highly redundant navigation system employing multiple cutting-edge technologies. The navigation system “includes multiple sensor modalities—active sensors such as lidar and ultrasonics, as well as passive sensors such as cameras—to navigate safely on busy city sidewalks. Serve Robotics’ achievement required development of a wide range of market-leading capabilities, such as automatic emergency braking, vehicle collision avoidance, and fail-safe mechanical braking.”
In the announcement, the company credits a couple of their technology partners in helping to reach this milestone. One of those companies is NVIDIA, whose Jetson platform provides the Serve robot with AI-computing to navigate complex unstructured environments. Serve also gave a shout-out to lidar-maker Ouster, which provides small and power-efficient lidar to help power Serve’s self-driving capabilities.
Up to this point, pretty much all autonomous sidewalk delivery robots employ the help of human drivers to navigate their routes. And even looking forward, even Serve and other bots move to level 4 autonomy, expect remote human drivers to continue to be in demand. That’s because there will always be potential unforeseen circumstances on different routes, and companies (like Serve) will want that extra layer of safety as their bots navigate through dense city environments.
However, with these types of advancements, human robot operators will be able to handle larger fleets over time. While some robot (and drone) delivery services already operate at a multiple-to-one ratio, higher autonomy means humans to robot ratios can increase, allowing pilots to handle more and more robots as they are deployed to the field.