by Rockwell Sands @

BoxBot Wants to Disrupt Last Mile Delivery

New Toyota AI-backed startup partners with OnTrac to bring automation to the last mile delivery space

More robots are coming! In tandem with competitors like FedEx unveiling their own delivery robots, a new Silicon Valley startup called BoxBot has emerged to disrupt the last mile delivery space.

A Little About BoxBot

BoxBot was founded in 2016 by Austin Oehlerking and Mark Godwin. Both Oehlerking and Godwin are former Uber (NYSE:UBER) and Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) engineers. The company has received backing from Toyota AI Ventures, and according to Crunchbase, has raised over $9 million since its inception.

The idea behind BoxBot is to make last mile delivery entirely automated. BoxBot differs from other startups for a few reasons. First and foremost, people who BoxBot services can choose their own delivery times, including nights. Also, BoxBot’s fleet includes both regular vans and electric self-driving vehicles. All of their delivery vans’ compartments are modular, so packages of all sizes can fit inside.

Lastly, BoxBot maintains they will use new software and hardware to sort packages and place them in the perfect spots in their delivery vehicles, further boosting efficiency.

“By leveraging advanced technology, we can deliver a higher number of packages in less time and at a substantially lower cost per package,” BoxBot CEO Austin Oehlerking says.

Testing the Waters With OnTrac

In order to test the delivery process, BoxBot recently announced a partnership with local West Coast carrier OnTrac to deliver parcels to a few select Oakland neighborhoods. If you live in or around Oakland, you might see their orange and blue delivery vehicles roaming the streets!

Last Mile Delivery Still Needs (and Will Need) Human Workers

The last mile, for some shippers, represents dangerous waters. For starters, a good majority of all eCommerce packages travel to urban addresses. Lots of these addresses are in apartment complexes, high-rise towers, and other hard-to-access places. As a result, despite all this new emerging technology, last mile delivery still needs humans in order to get it right.

For example, even the most advanced robots can’t do things like open gates or sidestep a planter on a porch. These little complexities are precisely why delivering packages is—and for the foreseeable future, will be—a very human act. Interestingly enough, BoxBot’s CTO Godwin spoke up on the importance of retaining the human element in last mile delivery.

“That last 50 feet is not going to be automated for a very long time,” he said. “Definitely not in the next five years, probably not in the next 10.”

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