Cashed up start-ups in the tech sector have been out snooping on our streets, and they like what they see: nice car-free bike lanes.
Autonomous vehicles are already a billion dollar industry, with car industry titans set to do battle with silicon valley wannabes over who gets to go driverless on the street.
The problem is that going autonomous is proving harder than was thought — all those cars that still have unpredictable drivers in them are a real hassle.
But what if you shrank the vehicle? What if it was squeezed down so it fitted in a bike lane?
Yes, 'fraid so... tiny autonomous vans are headed for bike lanes to deliver tonight’s dinner, and to deliver cash to the get-rich-quick-set who are investing in the technology.
The latest to break cover is Refraction, an autonomous vehicle start-up in the freight sector.
Their REV-1 is small and cheap and designed to operate in a bike lane, or on road.
It does not use the expensive Lidar sensors that typical autonomous vehicles use to navigate, instead relying on a simpler camera set-up.
It is roughly the size of a cargo bike, weighs in at about 45 kilograms and is 150 cm tall and almost as long. There is about half a cubic metre of space inside, enough to fit a week's shopping at the supermarket.
It has a top speed of 25kph, so it will be mixing it with the morning bike commuters as they race away from the lights.
The venture’s backers say the vehicles can be a consistent, reliable and economical way to address the need to deliver quickly on-demand goods to consumers.
Sounds like a job for a cargo bike. A human powered cargo bike.
Like that other annoying arrival in some of our bike lanes — the electric scooter, the REV-1 is a sedentary device.
Bike lanes are active travel infrastructure, and they deliver a massive benefit to the community in the form of healthy physical activity.
We invest heavily in active transport infrastructure so that the community benefits from improved health. Sedentary devices undermine that policy.
Watch a video on the REV-1 below: