As a recent study showed, aerial delivery drones are not always as energy-efficient as ground transportation. As a result, we may see more wheeled delivery robots, such as the rather cool-looking and increasingly demanding REV-1. The REV-1 looks a bit like a Go-One 3 vehicle and was developed by Refraction AI, a derivative company at the University of Michigan.
Currently, it is the focus of the university’s ongoing pilot project in Ann Arbor. Since the end of last year, a small group of robotic vehicles have been delivering meals from five local restaurants, and about 500 customers have been summoned through a custom-made app to deliver food. But since the START of the COVID-19 crisis, the use of the service is said to have increased roughly fourfold. A total of eight wheeled robots are currently in use — they are now equipped with UV disinfection lamps in the food silos and are wiped clean between meals.
The REV-1 has a top speed of about 12 mph (19 kph), weighs 100 pounds (45 kg) and is driven by a motor of less than 500 watts, meaning it’s low enough to comply with the e-bike’s rules, so it’s usually on a bike path. Still, it can leave the driveway when needed, such as when turning left.
Using a combination of GPS, LiDAR, radare and 12 relatively inexpensive optical cameras, the robot automatically navigates and avoids obstacles in the city, some of which have wide field of view, about 200 degrees, while others have a narrow, 90-100-degree view. The spread of the camera gives the REV-1 a 360-degree full view of the area, resulting in deep perception. And because it travels relatively slowly, it can also use ultrasonic sensors, which is not practical in faster vehicles.
And — considering it was designed in Michigan — the car has a fat rear tire that can help it power it when it’s driving in the snow.
Refraction AI hopes a total of 25 REV-1s will appear on the streets of Ann Arbor by the middle of this summer.