Vehicular “Drones” Will Be A Part Of An AV Future

ANN ARBOR,Mich.–While the future of self-driving cars sorts itself out, some companies believe that we will see an influx of “drone” delivery vehicles.

An Ann Arbor-based company called Refraction AI has been testing its REV-1 autonomous delivery vehicles, which are about the size of a large wheelbarrow. The three-wheeled electric vehicles are designed to fit into bike lanes and stay out of the primary traffic flow.

The test vehicles capable of carrying up to 100 pounds, have been designed to carry cargo such as grocery bags, restaurant deliveries or other goods traveling short distances — a half-mile to two and a half miles. The size and cargo capacity would be flexible, but would not exceed a size that could safely and effectively fit into bike lanes and other marginal spaces.

The company says the intended use is for delivery of things now handled by Uber Eats, Grub Hub and similar services.

The company is backed by Trucks Venture Capital and eLab Ventures.

The vehicles —about five feet tall, four and a half feet long and roughly 30 inches wide — cost about $5,000 each. The company expects to branch the test out to other cities over the next 18 months.

The company has designed the delivery pods to safely and efficiently move at low speeds, around 15 miles per hour, and stop quickly. The REV-1 can come to a halt in about five feet.


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