Robots transporting goods and people

Yesterday I wrote about the impact of robots on jobs. After publishing the post, I learned that Chris Dixon from Andreessen Horowitz led a $2M seed round in Dispatch. Dispatch is building a robot that delivers goods within cities. It’s unclear whether Dispatch will serve as a supplier to on-demand goods delivery companies like Kapgel and Postmates that are looking to lower the cost and increase the reliability of their currently human delivery fleet, or whether it will serve as an on-demand goods delivery company itself.

The reason why this news is interesting is because Chris Dixon also led an investment in Comma.ai less than a week ago. Comma.ai does for the transport of people what Dispatch does for the transport of goods. In particular, Comma.ai’s goal is to offer an aftermarket kit for existing vehicles to become fully autonomous. The same kit could also be used for new vehicles. Similarly to Dispatch, time will tell whether Comma.ai acts only as a robot technology supplier to businesses that interact with the end customer, or decides to serve end customers itself.

Whatever the eventual business models of Dispatch and Comma.ai, one thing is clear. Two of the world’s biggest transport markets, namely the transport of goods and the transport of people, are very likely to be served by robots, not people, in the foreseeable future. Robots are both cheaper than humans and more reliable. Robots are coming and they’re coming fast.