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A darling of the late '90s dot-com boom, WebVan ultimately failed, becoming a poster child for the dot-com bust (the company went bankrupt in 2001) and a cautionary tale about the perils of so-called "last-mile" delivery -- the link in the supply chain that brings products to consumers.
Delivery is expensive and inefficient. Unlike most parts of the supply chain, the last mile doesn't scale, especially when a human employee drives a big car to bring one product to one consumer.
The "last mile" is ripe for disruption. But how? Drones, right? The public can be forgiven for believing that the future of last-mile delivery is all about drones. But drones don't scale: They can't fly that far, can't carry that much and need to have their batteries recharged frequently.
While drones are great for bringing high-value items (like medicine) to remote places, they're not great for everyday deliveries.
The good news is that last-mile delivery can, in fact, scale. Several companies are already testing and showcasing technologies that could make that happen. With robotics.
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