Cities are set to grow even bigger in the upcoming decades. According to the UN, 68% of the population will live in urban areas by 2050. Associated with this influx of people is the recurring concern of mobility and surging delivery demands.
Cities need to cope with growing transportation headaches that include traffic congestions, rising transportation costs, and increasing emission levels within city centers. Governments around the world are constantly testing new forms of mobility that strive for efficient and sustainable means of transport. Cities such as Berlin, Oslo and Amsterdam are considering car-free zones with strict limitations. However, these measures pose a major challenge to the current last-mile delivery ecosystem.
A new promising form of mobility has gained pace during the COVID-19 pandemic: delivery robots. Sidewalk robots have picked up steam in the last two years, accounting for numerous deployments across the United States, Asia, and Europe.
With a market size of US$579 million in 2025, the delivery robot market is projected to keep growing as a green, sustainable delivery alternative. In this blog entry, we explore the benefits of delivery robots as a new form of mobility for smart, more sustainable cities.
A green, more energy-efficient alternative for deliveries
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly altered the delivery ecosystem. The hyper increase in consumer demand became a driver for restaurants and shops to offer delivery options that ensured the fastest delivery times. By doing so, last-mile delivery has stealthily multiplied the number of vehicles in the streets completing orders for customers, raising pollution levels in already traffic congested cities.
In Germany, for example, delivery traffic can make up to 80% of downtown traffic, according to a report from PwC. Inevitably, when the numbers of vehicles increase, so do the carbon- and nitrogen dioxide emissions. These issues are only growing worse, as current last-mile delivery practices are taking a toll on the environment; and lawmakers and companies alike must find suitable solutions without hindering economic growth.
As a response, cities across the globe are setting ambitious goals to cut their carbon emissions. In the United States, more than 100 cities made a historic pledge with the goal to achieve net-zero emission by 2050. Similarly, the European Union (EU) proposed a 2030 climate target plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. Now, the question is how to get there and curb CO2 emissions. Part of the answer lies in using green, energy-efficient delivery robots.
A joint report from McKinsey and the World Economic Forum (WEF) has pointed out how delivery robots are a feasible alternative to fulfill growing delivery needs without negatively impacting the environment. Electrically powered delivery robots provide a carbon-free alternative for deliveries in every geographical location, cutting gas pollution when compared to cars, vans, and motorcycles.
Delivery robots are an effective solution to worrying environmental concerns, assisting companies to manage their environmental impact while maintaining cost competitiveness. However, the environmental benefits of delivery robots are yet to be reaped once local authorities allow the widespread adoption of robotic deliveries. For robots to roam the urban landscape in line with existing regulations, cities need to harmonize their legislation with evolving delivery needs.
Reducing traffic congestion one robot at a time
The average delivery robot is designed to operate on sidewalks. Compared to current delivery vehicles used throughout cities, delivery robots possess a reduced wheelbase optimized for small streets and built to seamlessly integrate with pedestrians.
Therefore, if more food or parcel deliveries are completed by sidewalk robots, eventually traffic bottlenecks could see a significant reduction due to delivery vehicles being removed from already busy streets.
Take for example the case of bike couriers. Streets – and more frequently also on sidewalks - are starting to get flooded with fast driving bikes and scooters to complete their deliveries in time. Sometimes this leads to dangerous situations. Ironically, companies also struggle to find enough couriers to satisfy rising delivery demands.
As an alternative for cars and bikes in congested city centers, delivery robots ensure a safe street experience for all traffic participants. By relying on a sophisticated set of sensors, delivery robots are built to perceive their surroundings with human-like precision. These four-wheeled robots employ advanced algorithms based on machine learning (ML) to accurately process environmental information and safely navigate sidewalks.
Additional safety features like a permanent remote controller to assist the robot; an emergency stop button; and ultrasonic sensors guarantee the smooth and safe operation of the robots regardless of the urban setting.
Updated regulatory frameworks needed for truly sustainable cities
The make-up of the city is constantly shifting. It is believed that autonomous, electric, shared mobility services will be predominant forms of transportation in urban centers. To some sources, up to 40% of the mileage driven in Europe could be covered by autonomous vehicles in 2030. Similarly, delivery robots are the emerging solution to the pressing issues in cities. The advantages are clear, but what happens in terms of regulations?
As the technology that enables autonomous delivery robots leaps forward, the necessary regulatory framework needs to catch up to enable robot operations in open spaces. At the European level, general EU regulations that oversee robot delivery operations are not yet in place. However, rollouts are possible across Europe depending on the specific city requirements where the robot will be deployed.
Until now, many delivery robot manufacturers were forced to restrict their operations to private premises or campuses, limiting the range and use cases of their solutions. To operate in larger public areas, tech providers must comply with safety and legal requirements prescribed by local municipalities. Often such regulation for side-walks robot is not yet present or civil servants are unfamiliar how to deal with it.
To reap the benefits offered by robotic deliveries, lawmakers and civil servants must actively work towards updated regulations that meet the opportunities offered by delivery robots. Robotic deliveries are a new form of mobility. As such, the mobility industry fosters innovation hubs and presents new research. The future of mobility will also reshaping jobs and present new work opportunities for certain groups such as disabled people, who can remotly operate delivery robots.
Many experts have labeled these new mobility technologies as a “reset of retail,” where emerging technologies, such as autonomous delivery robots, are at the forefront of modern deliveries and shaping the future of mobility. Accordingly, the regulatory frameworks of cities also need to reset or adapt to these new realities to be able to seize the opportunities offered by delivery robots.
The future of delivery, today
At TERAKI, we are prepared to embrace the delivery robot revolution. We have worked extensively for more than six years hand in hand with automotive companies to develop safe, autonomous driving systems through the efficient collection and processing of sensor data at the edge. Today, we have leveraged all that know-how to offer our customers autonomous delivery robots tailored to the realities of their business and geographic locations. At TERAKI, we are committed to bringing autonomous delivery robots to the streets, because we believe that the future of delivery is today.