On Tuesday, the Colruyt Clevon delivery robot, on test since November last year, has delivered for the first time groceries to a client, 26-year-old Ellen Cools, who lives on the trajectory between the distribution center and the Collect & Go pickup point in Londerzeel.
Colruyt has found thirty clients living along the route the robot is taking willing to actually have goods delivered to their doorstep. They get a smartphone code to unlock the delivery box of the robot, which has covered some 1 000 km on public Belgian roads last two months. With police escort in the beginning, but as no incidents occurred, completely on its own and watched remotely by a controller.
Belgian retailer Colruyt started testing the Estonian Clevon delivery robot on Belgian public roads in November 2022 with its Smart Technics innovation team. That was a Belgian first as 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.
The idea is to see if home delivery could be a safe and cost-effective way for last-mile delivery in the future. Tests with fully autonomous driving were concluded past weeks on private terrain. For now, 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.
The Clevon 1 is actually Cleveron’s third-generation autonomous driving vehicle and the first allowed to drive on public roads in Estonia and Lithuania. The company claims it is the first in Europe to offer autonomous delivery services, starting with DPD. License applications are pending in the United States and several European countries.
It’s 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 notice the customer it’s there upon arrival. The client can unlock the box with an app to retrieve the goods.
Driving at 25 km per hour
Clevon 1 uses three front cameras, two side cameras, and one rear camera and is also equipped with short- and long-range radars to measure distances. It allows the robot to recognize and identify obstacles such as cars, cyclists, and pedestrians.
A teleoperator, overviewing one or several robots on the road, can intervene at any time and take complete control. In the Colruyt test phase, which will last for two months, the operator is always in control. Clevon can reach a top speed of 50 km/hour, but for this test on public roads in Londerzeel, is limited to 25 km/hour.
The Clevon 1 communicates via 4G with the operator in the control room and has two simultaneous connections with two different 4G networks to ensure connectivity and latency. “In the unlikely event that both networks fail, the unmanned vehicle comes to a safe stop,” says Kim Vancauwenberghe of Smart Technics.
The Estonian smart delivery tech company Cleveron, established in 2007, has its headquarters in Viljandi, Estonia. It grew out of the logistics department of the Estonian online furniture store ON24. It developed innovative delivery solutions like a parcel locker and a robotics-based parcel pickup solution called PackRobot, which Walmart in the US renamed into the ‘The Pickup Tower’.
In 2017, an extendable robotics-based parcel terminal was launched, and in 2018 Cleveron announced the birth of ‘Lotte’, a self-driving robot courier prototype. Cleveron 701, the successor to Lotte, was the first unmanned vehicle in Europe to get a license to operate on public roads across Estonia in 2020.
First pilot in the Netherlands
And in 2021, Cleveron 701 was dispatched to the Netherlands in a pilot with DPD for its first-ever international pilot project. “This was the first time we flawlessly operated our vehicle from 1500 km away,” the company claims.
And from the beginning of September 2022, Viljandi residents in Estonia who bought a domestic appliance from the Euronics store can order the delivery to their doorstep with the Clevon 1 self-driving delivery robot.
Now featuring on Belgian roads in Londerzeel, but don’t expect it to ring your doorbell soon elsewhere in the country. It will only be used for internal testing and evaluation with the Colruyt Smart Technic team in Londerzeel and the involved local and federal governments.
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