The Rev-1 delivery robot is fast enough to hit the bike lane

As many folks continue to look skyward in expectation of drone delivery services, they’re missing the development of an increasingly popular delivery technology back on terra firma.

Wheel-based delivery robots may not be quite as sexy as their flying counterparts, but with fewer regulatory hoops to jump through than drone services, the technology is likely to become more widely used sooner rather than later by companies looking to make their delivery operations more efficient.

The latest outfit to join the race is U.S. startup Refraction A.I. with its autonomous Rev-1 machine.

The brainchild of University of Michigan professors Matthew Johnson-Roberson and Ram Vasudevan, the Rev-1 tootles along on three wheels instead of the four or six that we see with most of the competition. The wheels and storage compartment mean the look of the Rev-1 is similar to efforts from dominant player Starship Technologies, as well as delivery robots from FedEx and Amazon. Meanwhile, more extreme variations include the Digit from Oregon-based Agility Robotics, which has created a bipedal robot capable of tackling steps and other obstacles that cause problems for most — though not all — wheel-based bots.

The Rev-1 tips the scales at about 100 pounds and can reach a speed of up to 15 mph, making it 5 mph faster than Starship’s machine. Its storage compartment offers 16 cubic feet of space, which the company says is good for around four or five grocery bags.

As with similar machines, when the Rev-1 arrives at its destination, the recipient can unlock the storage box by entering a one-time code into the robot’s keypad.

The self-driving robot uses 12 cameras as its main sensor system though it receives extra situational data via radar and ultrasound sensors. Similar robots also use lidar and fewer cameras, but Johnson-Roberson said that its system is reliable enough to eliminate the need for pricey lidar technology — a decision that’s enabled it to keep costs down and price the Rev-1 at $5,000.

Johnson-Roberson describes the Rev-1 as “lightweight, nimble, and fast enough to operate in the bike lane and on the roadway,” adding that it can also handle rough weather conditions that have the potential to slow down or hinder competing machines.

Refraction A.I. says its first test application is with restaurant partners, with the company hoping to expand to other areas of last-mile delivery over time.

Emerging Tech

Elon Musk’s Neuralink wants to start operating on human brains next year

Elon Musk shed more light on his Neuralink company on Tuesday, revealing new technology for brain surgery that would allow people with paralysis to use thoughts to control smartphones and computers. But that wasn't all ...
Movies & TV

Terminator: Dark Fate’s new assassin is front and center in latest movie poster

The latest posters for Terminator: Dark Fate put the spotlight on the film's updated android assassin and returning franchise star Linda Hamilton, and offer a peek at the showdown to come between these two characters.
Smart Home

A prototype robotic grocery store has just launched in Tel Aviv

CommonSense Robotics is going all-in on its innovative robotics-powered grocery distribution and delivery platform by opening up a new automated grocery delivery center in Tel Aviv.
Emerging Tech

Meet NASA’s climbing robots, able to move through the slipperiest environments

When it comes to exploring far off planets, robots need to be able to tackle all sorts of environmental challenges. NASA has been working on a series of climbing robots to take on different tasks in inhospitable environments.
Cars

Playing Forza inspired this gamer to 3D-print a Lamborghini for his son

Lamborghini charges about $400,000 for an Aventador S, so Colorado physicist Sterling Backus decided to make one in his garage for $20,000. Working with his son, he is painstakingly 3D-printing the supercar's body panels.
Cars

AWD vs. 4WD: What’s the difference between the two and which is right for you?

Although four-wheel drive (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) are related, they are actually quite different in how they operate. Here, we talk about the fundamental differences between the two systems, and what it means for you as a driver.
Cars

Formula E races aren’t just exciting, they’re driving EV tech into the future

Formula E made its annual trip to the Big Apple, showing just how far the all-electric racing series has come. The cars are faster, and the racing is closer, but the tailpipe emissions are still at zero.
Cars

Manual vs. automatic vs. CVT: Different types of transmissions explained

From automatic to manual to CVT, there are several types of transmissions in the automotive world. In the battle of automatic versus manual, which wins? We'll help you pick the right gearbox for you.
Cars

There is no way to say pickup truck in emoji, and Ford wants to change that

Ford asked the Unicode Consortium to include a pickup truck in the database of emojis. The company is confident its request will be approved, and a blue pickup truck loosely shaped like an F-150 will be available in early 2020.
Cars

Carbuying can be tiring: Here are the best used car websites to make it easier

Shopping for a used car isn't easy, especially when the salesman is looking to make a quick sale. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites aimed at the prospective buyer, whether you're looking for a sedan or a newfangled hybrid.
Mobile

Uber’s in-car shopping service now sells way more than just snacks

The Cargo Box launched in 2018 to offer Uber drivers an easy way to sell snacks and drinks to riders. The service is now expanding to include lots more items, including tech products and travel accessories.
Cars

The last two affordable station wagons in America are about to retire

Volkswagen confirmed it will stop making the Golf Sportwagen and the Golf Alltrack by the end of 2019. Both station wagons are at the end of their life cycle, but they won't be replaced because they compete in a shrinking segment of the…
Cars

How Lexus, one of the industry’s hybrid champions, is preparing for the 2020s

Lexus predicts significant shifts will reshape the automotive industry during the 2020s. The hybrid champion is preparing to branch out into electric cars, it's investing in autonomous technology, and it wants to keep focusing on SUVs.
Cars

Cadillac’s new 2020 CT5 sedan lets you Super Cruise across America

The 2020 Cadillac CT5 proves the General Motors-owned luxury brand still cares about sedans. Introduced at the 2019 New York Auto Show, it's optionally available with Cadillac's Super Cruise technology and a lineup of turbocharged engines.