Continental unveils robot delivery dog
Continental’s CES press conference focused on the evolution and future of mobility, highlighting how existing telematics systems will eventually become the connected, smart platforms that will power autonomous driving. It’s a story that’s being told a lot at this year’s CES, from a variety of technology and automotive companies.
The future is seamless mobility according to Continental, essentially delivering the right mobility when and where you need it. Sometimes that will be your own car that you can drive yourself, or be driven in autonomously, but other times it may be a shared autonomous vehicle, or robo-taxi.
But as well as autonomous taxis, Continental also suggested that we’d see autonomous delivery vehicles, again an idea that has been floated and even trialled before. However, the problem with autonomous delivery vehicles is that there’s no way of getting the package from the car to the customer’s front door – if the customer is home when the delivery arrives, they’ll be inconvenienced by having to walk to the street to collect their package, while if they’re not home, there’s no way for the car to leave the package in a safe place.
The answer, according to Continental, is a fleet of delivery robots that can deal with that final 100m problem, transporting the packages from the delivery vehicle to the customer’s door, or to a suitably safe place. Continental illustrated this idea with an animated video showing a pack of robotic dogs exiting an autonomous vehicle and trotting to their final delivery destinations. The video even showed one of these mechanical pooches opening a secure lock box, placing the package inside it, and closing the box before heading back to its vehicle.
Of course showing a video like that to a room full of jaded tech journalists who’ve been coming to CES for years was always going to result in a combination of laughter a derision, but Continental was prepared for that very reaction. As the laughter died down, a working prototype of the very robo-dogs we’d just seen in the video was unveiled.
Whether or not Continental’s robo-dogs are up to the task of delivering packages in the real world, with real world obstacles like gates, stairs, roads and garden ponds, is still debatable. Even if the robo-dogs are mechanically capable of overcoming those obstacles, there will still need to be sophisticated realtime AI systems guiding them.
We’re not going to dwell on the negatives, though, because it was genuinely refreshing to see a potential solution presented for that final 100m autonomous delivery problem; and besides, we kind of like the idea of robo-dogs wandering around the neighbourhood delivering our packages.