Wed, Nov 15, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Australia testing robot post delivery, one parcel at a time

The Guardian

Australia Post has launched a new parcel delivery service using an autonomous robot that experts say is of limited use and resembles an “esky” (an Australian brand of portable ice chests) on wheels.

A four-week trial of the “mobile parcel locker” began on Monday in the Brisbane suburb of New Farm. The small self-driving container, nicknamed “Billy the Box,” takes packages door to door and unlocks via a unique code that is texted to users.

For the next month, residents who miss a delivery during business hours will be given the option to have their parcel redelivered in the evening by the robot.

However, the prototype must be accompanied by a human Australia Post employee, and can only hold one parcel at a time.

Queensland University of Technology robotics expert Peter Corke told the New Daily the current model’s rudimentary technology raised concerns.

“How does it cross the road?” he asked. “How do you stop it from being picked up and put on a truck and taken away?”

“To require a robot and a human to deliver one parcel when one guy in a truck can deliver a number of parcels without a hitch is not worth it,” he said.

Australia Post chief technology officer Tien-Ti Mak said the robot was designed to help Australians receive parcels out of business hours, when they are more likely to be home.

“We know that receiving a ‘sorry we missed you’ card can be frustrating. So we’re looking at new ways to redeliver parcels after hours,” he said.

Mak said New Farm was chosen because its residents were some of Australia’s biggest online shoppers, buying 19 percent of their items online compared with the national average of 11.5 percent.

“This after-hours mobile locker trial in New Farm is the first step to gauging whether there is community support or demand to receive parcels in this way,” Mak said.

He said the robot would be hard to pick up and steal because it weighed about 100kg.

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