Since there are still technical and legislative challenges to overcome regarding the widespread use of aerial delivery drones, ground-based models may actually end up beating them to entering frequent service. One of the latest to hit our radar is the two-wheeled self-balancing YAPE, from Italy's e-novia.
Similar in form and function to Piaggio Fast Forward's Gita, YAPE uses GPS, video cameras and range-finding lasers to autonomously travel down city streets, avoiding obstacles such as potholes and pedestrians as it does so. It also wirelessly accesses sensors placed around the city, to monitor things such as traffic light status and traffic flow.
Users will summon it to their location via an app. One it gets there, they will load up to 70 kg (154 lb) of cargo into its lidded locking compartment, then use the app to specify the destination address. YAPE will subsequently set off on its own, using its electric motors to travel as far as 80 km (50 miles) per charge of its battery pack. It will stick mainly to sidewalks and bike paths, travelling on them at maximum speeds of 6 and 20 km/h (3.7 and 12.4 mph), respectively.
Upon reaching its destination, its cargo compartment will only unlock for the designated recipient – who must be registered with the YAPE delivery system – using facial recognition technology.
The first phase of road tests were completed in the Italian city of Cremona at the beginning of this month. YAPE will now be showcased at CES in Las Vegas, in January. And its name, in case you're wondering, stands for "Your Autonomous Pony Express."
It can be seen in use, in the following video.
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