• Integrating self-driving robots with delivery vans to provide local delivery
Will this be a more regular sight in European cities?

Will this be a more regular sight in European cities?

Starship Technologies, a start-up specialising in sidewalk robots for urban delivery, has announced a partnership with Mercedes-Benz Vans to develop 'Robovan', described as "the world's first transportation system integrating specially-adapted vans with autonomous delivery robots to allow efficient delivery of goods in neighbourhoods".

The semi-autonomous transportation system will see Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans act as 'motherships', hosting eight delivery robots. The vans will drive through neighbourhoods, stopping in designated locations, based on delivery density and demand, to drop off and pick up robots to complete customer deliveries.

"Starship Technologies has solved the last mile problem by introducing sidewalk delivery robots. However, vans are best suited to bring goods to the local area from businesses and distribution centres. When the two transportation methods converge into one, the outcome is the most efficient, cost effective and convenient local delivery method in the world,'' said Ahti Heinla, CEO of Starship Technologies.

Instead of completing door-to-door delivery, the vans will drive to pre-agreed locations to load and unload goods and then dispatch the robots in the final step for on-demand delivery. Upon making the customer delivery, the robots will autonomously find their way back to the van for re-loading.

The robots will be loaded with their goods in the 'Robovan' using a racking system that enables 400 packages to be delivered every 9-hour shift, compared to 180 packages using previously available methods, an increase of over 120%, Starship Technologies claims.

"A typical van delivery today involves driving to a delivery area, and then spending an entire day on door-to-door deliveries. By leaving the door-to-door part to delivery robots the van drivers' productivity will significantly rise while reducing congestion on the streets and CO2 emissions," said Allan Martinson, Starship's Chief Operating Officer.

"At Mercedes-Benz Vans we are constantly seeking for innovations to improve the efficiency for our customers and actively supporting their businesses. In Starship we found an innovative and creative partner to dramatically improve the way of transportation for the last mile," said Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.  "We see a huge potential for robotic delivery systems in the future and by combining our vans and the robots – we call it the mothership concept.  With this we are able to increase the efficiency of delivery by an order of magnitude. Working together is like having best of both worlds – the power of a leading van manufacturer combined with the agility and spirit of a startup".

Starship Technologies and Mercedes-Benz Vans entered a cooperation earlier this summer after studying the needs and requirements of their customers, with a view to offer customers unprecedented flexibility, convenience and control over their deliveries. The Mercedes-Benz Vans partnership follows Starship Technologies' launch of commercial delivery tests in the UK, Germany and Switzerland last month with partners Just Eat, Hermes, Metro Group, and Swiss Post, offering robotic delivery for the food, grocery and parcel industries.

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