Dutch retailer Albert Heijn tests delivery robot
Dutch retailer Albert Heijn (AH) is going to test a Swiss-German autonomous delivery robot to deliver groceries. As legislation won’t allow such robots yet on Dutch roads, the test will be done at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven.
Albert Heijn that merged with Belgian retail group Delhaize in 2016, is within the top five of Europe’s (and America’s) biggest retailers with more than 6.500 shops. It showed the robot, developed by Swiss company TeleRetail this week on the Digitial Food Conference in Amsterdam.
Order by smartphone
During the test weeks students can order groceries from the local AH To Go shop by smartphone. The robot moves on the campus using a virtual map and can be opened with the smartphone when arriving at the destination.
Swiss start-up TeleRetail used for its prototype the same technology that is used today for autonomous cars, with components from its sponsors, like German automotive supplier Bosch, chip maker Nvidia and lidar makers SICK.
From the European Space Agency (ESA), interested in the development of ground-based systems using satellite data to navigate and pick up deliveries, the Swiss got a 1,8 million euro fund.
The current prototype, tested by the Swiss Post too, costs between 50.000 and 100.000 euro. But prices are expected to drop between 10.000 to 20.000 euro in the near future.
TeleRetail CEO Thorsten Scholl’s idea is to generate revenue in the future by offering a consumer app that applies robotics to local logistics. It could be a subscription-based model for consumers to a robotic delivery service, or a service for local retailers shops.
In the company’s vision it’s about “empowering Main Street shops and small businesses to be able to compete with deeper pocketed e-commerce giants like Amazon”, as Scholl told Techcrunch earlier.
“We also have a great drive to help seniors live well, independently, as they age”, he said. “This kind of technology helps them send their own kind of Mars rover out to drop off the dry cleaning or pick up groceries.”
Cubic yellow robots
Delivery robots are tested on several places in the world. In China, tiny cubic yellow robots, the size of a small washing machine, are roaming at walking pace, totally independently on the footpaths of Beijing’s (car-free) residential Kafka district. On their way to deliver groceries to clients living nearby.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon has created a focus team dedicated to exploiting self-driving technology. American FedEx announced in February that it is going to test a robot to deliver parcels and letters.
The ‘SameDay Bot’, as the device is called, will be able to drive on the pavement or along the road, it even can climb stairs. It is perfectly capable of avoiding obstacles and pedestrians. Top speed is 16 km/hour. It will be tested first in Memphis, the home city of FedEx. Local authorities have given green light for it.