At Bedestrian, we see the Michigan Central Station Challenge as an opportunity to include a community largely left behind to co-create the future of mobility. Not just in Detroit, but across the world. We know advanced mobility technology has evolved to a stage where its promise can be put to use immediately to solve real pain points for residents, while including them in a cohort of early adopters that defines the future of autonomy at scale. In that respect, like Ford, we have two feet firmly planted in the realities of today's Corktown community, but a big vision for our technology's impact on its future transformation.
Specifically, our B1 lead robot and B2 trailer make up a system of robotic vehicles that deliver goods and services on demand. While mobility technology and hardware - i.e. Scooters, e-Bikes and AVs - focus on increasing options for moving people, at Bedestrian, we’ve focused in on an overlooked population: the homebound.
The rapidly increasing senior population as well as individuals with disabilities will continue to be underserved regardless of the number of solutions for moving people.
Instead, in this pilot we’d like to focus on serving homebound individuals that are unable to pick up prescriptions drugs. As a follow on, we also see opportunity to serve people that cannot plan, shop, or prepare nutritious meals for themselves due to post-op surgery, illness, disability or other challenging effects of advanced age.
We are currently working with Beaumont Hospital - Dearborn - to leverage our lead robot "B1" in service of cancer patients, nurses and the pharmacy lab. Specifically, our focus is using our bot in freeing up nurses and pharmacy techs from having to make 40-100 deliveries of chemotherapy drugs a day. Doing so enables them to do what they do best: care for patients and mix pharmaceuticals, respectively. Most importantly, the use of our technology means less minutes that a patient in need has to spend waiting for the treatment they require.
We have had in-depth discussions about providing the same service to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Which is what got us excited about Corktown!
We see a similar opportunity to serve the underserved in Corktown. Henry Ford Hospital has pharmacy locations in Midtown Detroit. While it is only three miles from Corktown it may as well be on the other side of Earth for homebound populations.
The Corktown community is relatively underserved in terms of healthcare clinics and pharmacies. We've allowed ourselves to imagine an opportunity to demonstrate the future of pharmaceutical delivery - as well as other tele-medicine services (i.e. wellness visits and safe disposal of expired prescription drugs) for people in Corktown. Residents of the community that have utilized Henry Ford's Health System in the past and been prescribed medications from Henry Ford Pharmacy's - particularly those individuals that are homebound our lacking alternative transportation options - could utilize the Henry Ford Rx app via Bedestrian's delivery service. The same could be done with those individuals that already have Beaumont Health patient relationships.
While the excitement of using our technology to literally "connect people, places and opportunities" as the City:One Challenge sets out is in delivering goods and services people need today - we also can imagine a future where Henry Ford and/or Beaumont locate a health clinics or pharmacies in the Michigan Central Station.
For now, we will set up a staging area in Corktown to run pilot deliveries. In the future a clinic or pharmacy could serve as a de facto distribution warehouse while also serving the people within Michigan Central Station.
While our focus is clearly technology in service of human need, the richness and excitement of the pilot opportunity doesn't end with meeting the needs of homebound populations.
A critical aspect of how we view the future of ubiquitous delivery bots is about their technology. From our voice interaction that will literally make B1, be one with the community to the always-on nature of autonomous bots.
Our B1 technology not only allows for secure transport of goods, but thanks to our hybrid tele-operation and autonomous technology model, it also serves as a de facto neighborhood security enhancement vehicle with a live streaming 360 degree view of its surroundings. In partnership with Innovation Works (https://innovationworks.com/) we've designed our tele-operation capability to set up monitoring in physical locations (perhaps partnering with City of Detroit police outposts) leveraging advances in digital technologies. From 2D and 3D maps of buildings in the Impacted Area to Digital Twins of B1s in order to inspect and direct their activity when necessary, we will be able to track all of B1s paths in real-time. With our partner Innovation Works, we are on the cutting edge of leveraging Virtual Reality and Dynamic Data visualization to monitor and tele-operate robotic vehicles. Rather than wait for Level 5 perfection, we are focused on human oversight of otherwise autonomous bots.
Doing so has multiple benefits: Alleviates safety concerns, speeds the timeframe of solution delivery and creates an entirely new category of employment (i.e. ground traffic controllers) that community members can potentially participate in.
Additionally, the benefit of ubiquitous bots is not just in the delivery of goods but in their contribution during 'down-time' when it is not making a delivery. We have engaged fellow start-up Kuhmute (https://kuhmute.com/) on how to combine our technology and services to provide for mobile charging - as well as pick up and delivery - of alternative mobility solutions such as Spin scooters.
Ultimately, we recognize Ford’s Corktown Campus will be the center of the autonomous vehicles development universe. A collaborative place where the ecosystem necessary to design the future takes shape.
As such we want to pilot an example of how Ford is orchestrating that future - through the City:One Challenge - by enabling an autonomous delivery robot start-up (Bedestrian) and our collaboration partner to pull the future of autonomous technology forward in service of the Corktown community.
While Ford and others are rapidly moving toward deployment of autonomous vehicles at scale, we believe the same technology scaled down to fit a delivery robot can be deployed in service of people, today.