Amazon may want us to believe that carrier drones will soon be the way packages are delivered to our doors, but Mercedes-Benz is working with a delivery startup that feels it has a more practical method with a minion of robots out to deliver.
London startup Starship Technologies has been developing a squad of small robot delivery vehicles to dramatically increase the output of traditional delivery methods, but with a radius of anywhere between two to three miles, they went to Germany’s Mercedes-Benz to come up with a vehicle that would bring the new delivery system to life.
The partnership resulted in the Robovan, a tricked out Sprinter van that will house these tiny robots, along with the packages they need to deliver. While the robots will still have a limited range, the van will be able to drive to a centralized location and send out the robots for the last leg of the trip. Starship Technologies told Wired that over a nine hour shift, the Robovan and its robots will be capable of sending out 400 packages.
“In order to get goods and e-commerce packages to an area, you still need to use vans and that’s the best delivery method for the first 10 miles from the delivery centre,” Allan Martinson, the chief operating officer of Starship Technologies told Wired. “By merging vans and robots so we get the best of both worlds we can get a very efficient delivery.”
For now the futuristic delivery system still requires human involvement with the driver of the van needing to load up each robot with its packages for the day. Each robot is also equipped with a camera that can provide the driver with a visual cue if a problem arises.
Starship Technologies says it has been testing its delivery bots in the UK, Germany and Switzerland with its partners Just Eat, Hermes, Metro Group and Swiss Post. Once the Robovan goes into service, the company believes it will be able to ramp up the service and be on its way to making the future of delivery a reality.