July 13, 2024

Consumers’ Readiness for Robots at Their Doorstep: A Study on Acceptance of Automated Parcel Delivery Technologies

The rise of e-commerce and the increasing demand for faster and more efficient deliveries have prompted companies like Amazon and Walmart to invest in research and development for automated parcel delivery technologies. With Amazon aiming to make 10,000 deliveries with drones in Europe and Walmart planning to expand its drone delivery services to 60,000 additional homes in the United States this year, the question arises: are consumers ready to embrace robots as their delivery drivers?

A recent study conducted by Northwestern University’s Mobility and Behavior Lab, led by Amanda Stathopoulos, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, sought to investigate consumer acceptance of near-future technologies for automated parcel delivery. The study, titled “Robots at your doorstep: Acceptance of near-future technologies for automated parcel delivery,” shed light on the complex relationship between behavior and acceptance of these technologies.

The researchers found that while people were generally more open to accepting automated vehicles as substitutes for human delivery drivers, they held reservations about drones and robots. However, as the speed of delivery increased and the price decreased, individuals became more likely to accept these technologies. Moreover, tech-savvy consumers were found to be more accepting of these near-future technologies compared to those who were less familiar with them.

Stathopoulos emphasized the need to carefully consider the impact of these new technologies on individuals and communities and to understand their attitudes towards these changes. She suggests that companies and policymakers must engage in dialogue with the public and take their opinions into account.

One of the challenges highlighted by the study is the need for companies to consolidate their unique systems and collaborate with each other. Stathopoulos believes that shipping and logistics centers should be a focal point of city planning and design to recognize their importance and their role in improving quality of life. She also urges policymakers to participate in these discussions as drones become more prevalent and labor dynamics shift.

The study, which surveyed 692 individuals in the United States, assessed preferences and perceptions related to different delivery options, including delivery speed, package handling, and general perceptions. The findings indicate that while the potential for automated delivery is exciting, there is still work to be done to gain public acceptance.

Stathopoulos argues that by actively listening to consumers and conducting more frequent assessments of user acceptance, policymakers and companies can better prepare for the future and address anxieties and reluctances associated with new technologies. The researchers further caution that failure to gain public acceptance may hinder the success of these innovations, especially as companies turn to drones due to labor shortages and the growing demand for e-commerce deliveries.

Acknowledging the significant impact of delivery services on cities, Stathopoulos calls for collaboration, coordination, and information sharing between companies to avoid redundant and overlapping systems. She believes that proactive planning is necessary to ensure that the massive volume of deliveries does not negatively shape cities.

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation Career program, highlighting the importance of research in understanding consumer acceptance and shaping future policies and technologies in the field of automated parcel delivery.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it