Digital leaps in areas like AI and autonomous technology are fundamentally changing the way goods and people move around the world. Startups are the lynchpin of this transformation, pinpointing areas of need that can be tackled by cutting-edge digital solutions, including digital freight services, warehouse robotics, AI for supply chain management, delivery robotics, and autonomous driving software. That's ultimately forcing incumbents to evolve or see their core businesses erode. Monitoring these startups thus offers unique insight into the development of the transportation and logistics industries at large, and how incumbents are defending their turf.

In a series of five notes, Business Insider Intelligence will look at the top startups disrupting transportation and logistics. In the first note, we discussed the leading startups in digital freight and offered an assessment of their value and impact on the sector. In the second note, we examined the startups spearheading the rise of warehouse robotics, and in the third, we explored the leading startups offering AI software to enhance the routing of shipments and speed up delivery times. This fourth note will dive into the robotics startups automating last-mile delivery. And finally, the fifth note will analyze the startups developing autonomous driving software and how they’re challenging big automotive and tech companies in the race to put a self-driving car on the road.

Delivery Robotics: Automating The Problematic Last Mile As Package Volumes Grow

Retailers, logistics companies, and delivery startups are all rushing to find ways to improve the last mile of delivery, or the final stage of the delivery process when the package arrives at the customer's door. Automating the delivery process through robots is at the center of these efforts — other technologies like drones and autonomous cars will be held back for a few years by regulatory barriers and technological limitations. Business Insider Intelligence defines a delivery robot as any ground-based robot that's used to deliver packages, groceries, or prepared meals from one point to another.

Last-mile deliveries are notoriously difficult to conduct, and rising e-commerce volume is making the problem worse. Honeywell estimates that the last-mile comprises 53% of the entire cost of delivering a package. And with package volumes on the rise — Business Insider Intelligence projects annual global e-commerce volume will rise [...]