With delivery robots now allowed to use sidewalks in South Korea, companies are racing to resolve issues related to the last mile of delivery to bring goods to the customer’s door.
Earlier, delivery robots were classified as vehicles under the law and could not travel on sidewalks. Legislative changes to lift the ban took effect by November, enabling robots certified for safety to operate on sidewalks.
This is expected to give a boost to the commercialization of delivery robots, since the robots no longer need to be designed to travel as fast as cars.
Delivery robots are defined as weighing 500 kilograms or lighter, having a width of 80 centimeters or narrower, and traveling at 15 kilometers per hour or slower. They are allowed onto sidewalks if a certification body approves them after evaluating such areas as speed control, remote operating capabilities, and whether they can recognize traffic signals.
Food delivery services and convenience stores are already running trials in a special deregulation zone.
Woowa Brothers, operator of the country’s biggest food delivery app, launched a pilot program using delivery robots at a large apartment complex in 2021. When participating restaurants in the complex receive orders from Woowa’s app, they load the order on the Dilly Drive robot, which then makes the delivery automatically.
Dilly Drive uses cameras, radar and GPS to travel at 5 or 6 kilometers per hour while avoiding pedestrians. It can cross crosswalks by recognizing whether the signal is green or red. The robot can communicate with the building’s management system, allowing it to ride elevators and bring food and drinks to the customer’s apartment.
Although delivery robots are also being developed in the US, Japan, and elsewhere, the ability to ride elevators to deliver goods to a customer’s door is highly unusual.
The operator of 7-Eleven convenience stores in South Korea has also been running trials using delivery robots within an apartment complex. Since automated deliveries would help reduce costs in various fields, including the retail and delivery sectors, delivery robots are seen as a promising solution amid rising labor costs.