The Future of Goods Transportation: Small, Rope-Climbing, Robots

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If one looks at an average shopping trip, then the set of goods that one buys, is pretty standard. One might just select them at a web shop and the whole process from store to kitchen might be automated. Placing the goods to ordinary shop shelves might be omitted. Some robots combined with some manual labour might assemble the set of goods at the store, with no extra cost, because in stead of placing the goods to shelves, the store attendants place the goods directly to packages that the rope-climbing robots will transport from store to people's homes.

The weight of the goods that a 70kg person consumes per week is about 20kg. Without the rope-climbing robots, the 70kg person transports itself to the store to get that 20kg. After gathering the goods at the store, the 70kg person transports 70kg+20kg=90kg of material back home. If the 70kg person uses a car, then the amount of material transported for fetching the 20kg of goods is even greater.

Indeed, robots also have some weight, but they will probably be less than 100kg, which is less than many cars and probably comparable with the imaginary fraction of material that buses, trains, etc., have per passenger.

Unlike paved roads, the rope-ways that are not designed for carrying humans, are probably relatively cheap and can be placed to places that are not suitable for transporting humans. The rope-ways do not need to be explicitly cleared from ice and snow during winter. Given the fact that robots are autonomous, people do not have to spend time on transportation. Those two facts alone make it feasible for countryside people to order daily food from towns.

Fixing the rope-ways that are not designed for transporting humans is probably cheaper than repairing paved roads. As the usage frequency of the paved roads decreases, the amount of repairs that are necessary after the snow has melted also decreases.

Think of the level of postal service that the rope-ways can provide? With that sort of technology, people at less populated areas will never miss the post office or a mail-man again!!!

Financing? I believe that it's probably not more expensive to build the robots and rope-ways than it is to buy cars and hire people to manually transport the mail. At first it will probably not be totally automatic, but it certainly will be in the future.

With internet shops on the rise and the long-tail patterns being a reality, what would be a more appropriate form of transportation for goods than the rope-climbing robots?

It would be awesome, if Tallinn were the first city to implement that. I'm sure that technically people from the local university, Tallinn University of Technology, can handle it, if asked nicely and payed well.

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Update at 2013_11

It seems that a similar idea, but a more inefficient one, has been proposed at the TED conference:


Martin Vahi

The first cable-ways might be built by using the street lightning poles that are already in place. What regards to electronics, then a modern 100€ cellphone has WiFi access and mobile internet access and can be programmed.

A single robot can be shared by about 10 apartments. Apartment owners write their fetching orders, i.e. from where and what the robot should fetch, to a web application. Once the robot reaches home, it logs into its owners copy of the web application, over a WiFi or mobile internet, and checks out the next order/command.

2013-05-06 2:36 pm

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