Will airbags calm fears about driverless vehicles?
Full-sized autonomous vehicles can make pedestrians and other drivers a little nervous. One of the big startups in the autonomous grocery delivery space is trying to address that with a safety measure meant to soften the impact of the new technology.
Nuro just announced the latest generation of its grocery delivery vehicle, a self-driving electric car capable of carrying 500 pounds of groceries with heating and cooling capabilities, according to Popular Science. One of the most notable parts of the new design is an airbag which, at least in renderings of the vehicle, looks like an air mattress positioned on the flat, front end. The cushion is meant to inflate if the car runs into someone.
Nuro has piloted different iterations of its grocery delivery vehicles and other autonomous delivery services in a few U.S. states with multiple big name retailers, the most recent being a pilot in conjunction with 7-Eleven in California.
Other startups have also been working with major retailers to move fully driverless, autonomous vehicle technology forward.
In November of 2021, CNBC reported that Walmart had been working with an autonomous vehicle startup called Gatik since that summer. The technology collaboration consisted, at that time, of two box trucks, entirely driverless, delivering products from a dark store to a Walmart Neighborhood Market, running 12 hours a day on a seven-mile loop.
Since autonomous vehicle technology became a reality, critics have argued not just about potential safety concerns, but about jobs in trucking and transportation that would be lost were the technology to be implemented at scale.
The trucking job market, however, is currently experiencing a labor shortage so significant that the government has launched an apprenticeship program to train young truck drivers, according to The New York Times.
While labor costs could be pushing the development of this technology, driverless electric vehicles may prove costly as well — at least in the short term. A recent opinion piece on Bloomberg reported that Tesla, even as its business booms, is scrambling to secure basic materials for electric vehicle batteries as supply chain disruptions are creating severe shortages.
- Nuro’s little grocery-toting robot just got a big upgrade – Popular Science
- Walmart is using fully driverless trucks to ramp up its online grocery business – CNBC
- Autonomous vehicles won’t only kill jobs. They will create them, too – CNBC
- Facing a Shortage of Truck Drivers, Pilot Program Turns to Teenagers – The New York Times
- EV Battery Makers Are Getting Their Hands on Everything – Bloomberg
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the main obstacles to autonomous vehicles being used for grocery delivery? How significant is the safety issue and do measures such as airbags address those concerns?