The adoption of self-driving delivery robots in last mile logistics

Cheng Chen, Emrah Demir, Yuan Huang, Rongzu Qiu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Covid-19, the global pandemic, has taught us the importance of contactless delivery service and robotic automation. Using self-driving delivery robots can provide flexibility for on-time deliveries and help better protect both driver and customers by minimizing contact. To this end, this paper introduces a new vehicle routing problem with time windows and delivery robots (VRPTWDR). With the help of delivery robots, considerable operational time savings can be achieved by dispatching robots to serve nearby customers while a driver is also serving a customer. We provide a mathematical model for the VRPTWDR and investigate the challenges and benefits of using delivery robots as assistants for city logistics. A two-stage matheurisitic algorithm is developed to solve medium scale VRPTWDR instances. Finally, results of computational experiments demonstrate the value of self-driving delivery robots in urban areas by highlighting operational limitations on route planning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102214
Number of pages16
JournalTransportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review
Early online date20 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge funding provided by Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University and Cardiff University. This research was funded by the Natural Science Foundation of Fujian Province (2017J01788), Social Science Foundation of Fujian Province (FJ2019B093), and scholarship under the Education Department of Fujian Province. We thank reviewers for their helpful suggestions and comments. Overall, the research and manuscript have benefitted from the resulting changes.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • City logistics
  • Contactless delivery
  • Matheuristic algorithm
  • Self-driving delivery robot
  • Vehicle routing problem

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