A fleet of artificial intelligence-driven robots have hit the streets of Moscow, powered by Russia’s largest internet giant and designed to deliver mail across the Russian capital, bolstering the ranks of food delivery drones.
On Monday, the country’s national postal service began a partnership with digital tech conglomerate Yandex, using six-wheeled, suitcase-size robot to deliver mail within a 2km (1½-mile) radius of certain post offices in Moscow.
In the first phase of the rollout of Yandex’s NV units, the city’s residents will be able to select the robots as an option for delivery. Thirty-six of the self-guided rovers will be carrying post from some two dozen branches in area, and those who opt to use the service can track their progress before accessing their mail from the robotusing a code.
“The rapid growth and development of e-commerce will inevitably transform how deliveries operate. Logistics is becoming the most important industry for robotics, in which technologies can change our processes at all stages, from the first mile to the last. The Russian postal service is open to innovations that make our services more convenient. We are happy to test new delivery options that have no human intervention, and to create and study in detail a new business process,” said Stanislav Chernin, Innovation Director at Russian Post.
Yandex has already deployed a fleet of 50 rovers to drop off food for delivery service GrubHub at Ohio State University in the US and, in August, announced that it was acquiring Uber’s share in its self-driving venture.
In 2018, the Russian postal service conducted the inaugural flight of an aerial drone in Siberia. The venture ended in disaster, however, after the drone crashed into a wall and was smashed into pieces moments after takeoff.
Four years prior, a Russian pizza restaurant, Dodo Pizza, started using unmanned flying vehicles to deliver orders in one of the country’s northern cities, Syktyvkar. On the drone’s trial flight, the delivery was completed in 30 minutes.
In the US, a number of restaurant chains and other businesses have been exploring ways to incorporate automation into their production lines and logistics chains in recent weeks to compensate for a shortage of human workers. At Inspire Brands’ Innovation Center in Atlanta, ‘Flippy’ robots were created to increase speed and efficiency on burger production lines, but are now being tested to fry chicken wings.
Yandex’s latest foray into harnessing a robot workforce comes just days after Moscow’s Levada Center pollster released new findings showing that a recent rise in unemployment was among the most pressing socio-economic concerns for Russians.
Of the more than 1,600 people surveyed from across the nation, 61% said a rise in prices was keeping them awake at night. In second place were worries about poverty in general, with 36% of people polled being worried about their income.
The Levada Center is registered as a ‘foreign agent’ by Russia’s Ministry of Justice over links to its overseas funding.
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