COVID-19 demonstrates that digitization and technologization can be helpful in crises and disasters. In China, service robots deliver medicine and food in hospitals and quarantine stations, and drones track people without breathing masks. Those who has to stay at home can continue to perform their tasks and receive further training via a computer workstation and e-learning applications. Globalisation is a problem in the spread of the virus, but also a solution in combating it: research was immediately carried out worldwide on a drug against SARS-CoV-2. The use of robots and drones in China has been criticised for the loss of privacy. There was also criticism of the fact that the communist party and the media market the use of robots as a chinese success story, but that some of them originate from abroad. Well-known transport robots are, for example, from Starship Technologies and Savioke. Both companies are based in California.
Transport and delivery robots convey items of all kinds, like parcels and purchases from one party (often the provider or broker) to another (often the customer) or they accompany and relieve pedestrians and cyclists of their burden. From 2016 to 2018, Swiss Post tested small transport robots by Starship Technologies in Berne. Amazon began testing autonomous robots in a suburb of Seattle at the beginning of the year. According to USA TODAY, they will deliver packages to customers in Irvine, California. Irvine is a university town with about 250,000 inhabitants. It was planned and built in the 1960s by the Irvine Company. “Amazon said the robots, which are light blue and have the Amazon smile logo stamped on its sides, are able to avoid crashing into trash cans or pedestrians. Still, a worker will accompany the robots at first.” (USA TODAY, 6 August 2019) This is, of course, an effort that cannot be operated indefinitely. Once the escort is removed, accidents are inevitable. Transport robots of this type are dangerous trip hazards. They also create enormous complexity in urban traffic. These problems were addressed in Oliver Bendel’s article “Service Robots in Public Spaces” in June 2017 which can be downloaded here.