Watch out, the robots are coming to deliver our shopping items right to our doorstep

In a society where e-commerce is starting to claim the king’s crown and where more and more people are buying stuff online and expect to get it as soon as possible right at their door, your run-of-the-mill delivery guy will soon be overworked and rendered redundant by a new generation of delivery machines. We’re calling them machines because they’re not human. To be more concrete, they are full-blown, self-driving robots and for now, they’re here to lend a hand. Not so long ago, Ford detailed its plan to introduce a car-robot duo that would involve an autonomous car ready to drive up your alley and deploy a robot which would bring the delivery from the car to your house. Now it’s time for Refraction AI to exploit that concept and take it one step further, thanks to a contraption called REV-1.

What is a REV-1?

Refraction AI's REV-1 Robot Is Here To Kill The Delivery Guy
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Good question. Now, allow us to explain.

It’s supposed to be a low-cost, lightweight, and also smart replacement for the more traditional delivery man and his good old van.

In other words, fellas, we’re looking at an autonomous last-mile delivery robot that could replace your delivery guy sooner rather than later. The people behind it are professors Matthew Johnson-Roberson and Ram Vasudevan, currently teaching at the University of Michigan. But before we delve into more details, let’s establish what last-mile delivery actually means.

Last-mile delivery refers to the final part of a parcel’s journey. Let’s say you buy an e-scooter off Amazon, right? It will travel from one of Amazon’s warehouses to your doorstep. And that’s the last-mile segment, basically the movement of goods from a transportation hub to the customer.

Refraction AI's REV-1 Robot Is Here To Kill The Delivery Guy
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Moving forward with the topic, REV-1 is described as a “Goldilocks” solution by its makers, mostly because of its size - larger that your run-of-the-mill delivery robot yet smaller than an autonomous delivery van. Moreover, we’re told by the Refraction website that the REV-1 was designed with low power and low weight in mind, so it qualifies under e-bike regulations. Therefore, it can operate in both car and bike lanes.

REV-1 Design

The REV-1 looks pretty much like a tricycle that’s been fitted with a large cabin. For some reason, it reminds us of RoboCop’s head, but that’s not of essence here. What matters most is the robot’s size. REV-1 is 5 feet tall, 4.5 feet long, and 30 inches wide. It tips the scales at 100 pounds and can reach a top speed of up to 15 mph (24km/h), which is around the average speed of most commuter e-scooters out there. Besides being quick and nimble, the REV-1 impresses when it comes to stopping distance, needing just 5 feet to come to a complete halt - it goes without saying that’s way shorter than the stopping distance you’d get in a delivery van or truck.

On the hardware side, REV-1 uses 12 cameras to scan and understand the immediate environment around him. The cameras are also joined by an army of radar and ultrasound sensors that create a digital map of everything that’s in the robot’s vicinity as it travels to its destination. As you can see in the video above, the sensors-radar-cameras trio is apt enough to spot a pedestrian crossing the street and command a full stop from the REV-1. The video also suggests that the delivery robot can read traffic signs and behave accordingly.

Refraction AI's REV-1 Robot Is Here To Kill The Delivery Guy
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Moreover, REV-1 offers 16 cu-ft worth of cargo space, which is enough to fit four, maybe five packed grocery bags.

To receive their goods, customers are first notified via a text message and then must enter the personal code they’ve received on the touchscreen found on the robot’s left side, which is similar to an ATM’s screen. This, in turn, opens a gullwing-like door/hatch and lets you pick up your delivery. Unfortunately, we don’t get to know what powers the REV-1 but given its design and purpose, it surely is a sort of electric powertrain (battery pack + electric motor).

Refraction AI estimates that each REV-1 it produces will cost around $5,000, since there’s no need for it to employ an expensive LIDAR system, which would in turn make the robot’s selling price surge dramatically.

Height 5 feet
Length 4.5 feet
Width 30 inches
Top speed 15 mph (24 km/h)
Braking distance 5 feet
Cargo space 16 cubic feet
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