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When the COVID-19 pandemic first swept across North America and led to emergency shutdowns during the Spring of 2020, the way people acquired food and household necessities was dramatically impacted. As stay-at-home orders minimized personal travel, transit services were reduced and many stores and restaurants either closed or modified their operations. Some of the gaps were able to be filled by online retailers and delivery services. However, access to goods and services varied substantially depending on people’s age, income level, and physical ability. A new multi-university study funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), the U.S. DOT- funded university transportation headquartered at Portland State University, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) captured how households responded as local, state, and federal governments imposed and lifted restrictions, brick-and-mortar establishments closed and reopened, and e-commerce and delivery services adjusted to the changing conditions.
The Knight Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Initiative is a multi-year collaborative effort between the Urbanism Next Center at the University of Oregon, Cityfi, the cities of Detroit, Pittsburgh, and San José, and Miami-Dade County (the “cohort”) to pilot and learn about automated mobility technologies today to shape the future of deployment tomorrow. This cohort partnered with Kiwibot to learn more about a new technology—sidewalk delivery robots. Through this partnership, Kiwibot tested different use cases and collaborated on community engagement opportunities in each locale. Given the proliferation of bills being passed by state legislatures legalizing deployment of personal delivery devices (PDDs) or sidewalk robots, and the increased delivery demand due to the pandemic, the pilots were well timed to able to meaningfully inform the cohort cities about the potential benefits and challenges of sidewalk delivery robots.
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