Drivers need to beware of possible risks of accidents with self-driving vehicles. It is only a matter of time before robot delivery pods will be hitting big cities like Chicago and possibly increasing the risk of accidents for drivers. With the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis and fears of future infectious diseases, the use of these self-driving vehicles could presumably grow in popularity across the country.
What is a Robot Delivery Pod?
A robot delivery pod is very similar to a self-driving car, except it is completely driverless. One such device is the R2 self-driving car from Nuro, a California-based startup. The vehicle itself is built by Roush, a company that is famous for supercharging Ford Mustangs.
The Nuro R2 is designed to carry packages and other goods. It is basically a pod with wheels because it does not carry people. The device is equipped with temperature controls to keep the food it carries fresh until it reaches its destination. It navigates the roadways with sensors and cameras.
Nuro’s R2 robot delivery pod is unique in that it received the first approved exemption from the U.S. Department of Transportation. This exemption allows the R2 self-driving vehicle to travel on public roads even though it does not have human-driver controls.
Soon, Nuro will be rolling out its R2 in Houston in partnership with other companies. The R2 is not the first robot delivery pod that Nuro has put into operation. Its original R1 model was used through a partnership with Kroger to deliver groceries and to deliver pizzas for Domino’s. The R2 model will be used for delivering groceries, food, and other services, including grocery delivery for Walmart, the biggest grocer in the United States.
Nuro is Not the Only Player
Nuro is not the only company putting robot delivery pods into service. Amazon has been testing autonomous deliveries with self-driving robots and flying drones. Another startup, Starship has been using self-driving robots on U.S. college campuses. Logistics companies like UPS are also likely to see self-driving delivery vehicles in their futures.
The demand for self-driving delivery vehicles is expected to grow. Other companies are jumping on the bandwagon to deliver their own vehicles. For example, Toyota recently unveiled its own self-driving vehicle, the e-Palette at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This vehicle is expected to transport people during the day and packages at night. Ford, Uber, GM, and Google all have their own robot vehicle projects in the works.
Delivery Pods Are Already Being Used in Major Cities
Self-driving vehicles have been integrated into city life in several major cities for years. For example, Detroit has May Mobility, which is an autonomous, six-seater shuttle that travels a one-mile loop that transports Quicken Loans’ employees to and from their office. There are autonomous shuttles in Las Vegas and Dallas that transport people. There are even on-demand self-driving taxi services available for residents of some retirement communities in Orlando, FL and San Jose, CA. However, these vehicles do differ from robotic delivery pods because they also have a human driver
Are There Reasons for Chicago Citizens to Be Concerned?
As a major city, Chicago could soon be seeing the arrival of robot delivery pods. Yes, there could be a reason for people to be concerned. Most vehicles do travel at slow speeds. However, this does not make them immune from being involved in an accident. With robot delivery pods, there is no human onboard that can override the controls in the event of a malfunction or the need for an emergency stop. The vehicle’s sensors and cameras can transmit information to whatever system or whoever is overseeing the vehicle.
So, what might go wrong? A lot! Artificial intelligence with algorithms is responsible for much of how a self-driving vehicle, like a robot delivery pod reacts to obstacles or sudden changes. But they are not infallible and the same holds true for any humans who are controlling the vehicle remotely. It is not out of the realm of possibility that pedestrians and other drivers on the road could be involved in crashes with these self-driving vehicles.
Is it Possible to Make Personal Injury Claim Against a Robot Pod?
Because robot delivery pods are new, there are only a few recorded incidents of accidents involving them. There is also not enough known yet as to whether they can be dangerous to drivers and pedestrians. However, even though a robot delivery pod does not have a human driver onboard, an injured driver of another vehicle, pedestrian, or passenger may be able to file a personal injury claim.
Companies that build and sell unsafe products may be liable for the injuries and losses their products cause. Businesses who choose to continue using unsafe products may also be held liable for the injuries and losses they cause.