Carrefour starts robot delivery pilot in Belgium

After Colruyt started experimenting with an Estonian delivery robot in November, French supermarket chain Carrefour is setting up a pilot in the business park Corporate Village in Zaventem near Brussels with a Turkish-branded autonomous robot.

After the first test panel of twenty people, everybody in the Corporate Village will be able, starting next week, to order lunch or snacks online, and all kinds of fresh produce and groceries to be delivered within fifteen minutes.

Business park with 9 000 employees

The 60 000 m² business park, with six office buildings and 9 000 people working there, offers an ideal closed, geofenced environment as a proving ground for the incorporated Carrefour supermarket to put the Turkish robot to the test.

The robot used by Carrefour is commercialized by the Istanbul start-up The first test was carried out in a 1,6 km radius in January 2021 in the science park at Istanbul Technical University’s main Maslak campus.

It was merely aimed at that time to carry relatively small packages such as books, smartphones, or tablets within the campus. In the Netherlands, similar tests were done last summer at the Erasmus University Rotterdam with retail chain Spar as a partner.

Eight cameras and sensors

Meanwhile, claims more than 4 000 successful deliveries covering more than 4 400 km of fully autonomous driving. The robot has four large wheels enabling it to drive up driveways and small steps at an easy-going pace of 7 km/hour and can carry 15 kg. It has eight cameras and sensors to avoid obstacles.

In Belgium, the employees of the Corporate Village in Zaventem can order fresh fruits for breakfast, ready-made meals, or salads for lunch but have access to around 500 regular products from the Carrefour assortment. If all goes well, the next step would be a test in one or more of the major Belgian cities like Brussels, Antwerp, Lièrge, or Ghent.

Special federal government permit

The Turkish-branded robot is smaller than the one from the Estonian smart delivery tech company Cleveron, the Clevon 1, tested by Colruyt in Londerzeel. This one is an electric robot ‘skateboard’, 2,5 meters long, 1,15 m wide, and 1,55 m tall, that can carry different cargo boxes. It’s designed to find its destination autonomously and notify the customer it’s there upon arrival.

In the test phase, it’s still remotely controlled by a human teleoperator and limited to a fixed trajectory of four kilometers between the distribution center and Collect&Go’s pickup point in Londerzeel.

To be allowed to drive autonomously in a second phase, it required a special federal government permit and the local mayor’s and police chief’s blessing to have an autonomous vehicle on public roads. That’s a hurdle Carrefour will also need to take before we see robots roaming around Brussels.




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