Just five years ago, the topic of autonomous driving would’ve been viewed as something that will happen in the future. However, it is very much a reality today with multiples companies like Uber, Waymo, FiveAI and many others testing their autonomous wheels on the street. While the most we hear about self-driving vehicles in the context of ferrying people from one place to another, there are also some other uses of the technology.
The biggest Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijin is one such company that is employing autonomous vehicles to make deliveries. It announced its ambitious plans back in March this year by unveiling the autonomous delivery robot ‘Aitonomi.’ The delivery robot is being tested in a trial run currently and can soon be expected to be seen on the streets. Here are five things you should know about it.
What is it?
The autonomous delivery robot ‘Aitonomi’ is a driverless delivery vehicle developed by the Swiss-German technology firm Teleretail. It was first unveiled at the Digital Food 2019 Conference and it will be used by the Dutch supermarket chain to deliver groceries to a customer’s house. The vehicle uses the same technology as an autonomous car and it can reach speeds of up to 8 km per hour.
Where is it being tested?
Currently, the driverless delivery robot ‘Aitonomi’ is being tested in the confines of Eindhoven’s High Tech Campus. This trial run will apparently last two weeks and customers can order groceries via an app to receive it from the driverless vehicle. While the delivery robot makes it to the place all by itself, one will need to step out and collect their groceries out of the robot’s cart.
How does it work?
As mentioned earlier, the delivery robot comes equipped with the same technology as an autonomous car. It makes use of a virtual map to navigate around an area, which is made possible with the help of sensors and cameras. These sensors and cameras help the delivery robot avoid obstacles while making its way to deliver groceries to customers. The tech used in the vehicle is also used for autonomous cars, which are sourced from companies like chip maker Nvidia, German automotive company Bosch, and lidar makers SICK.
— Arnoud Leerling (@ArnoudLeerling) March 26, 2019
When will it hit the streets?
The driverless delivery robot ‘Aitonomi’ is not allowed on public roads under Dutch law. This is the reason why Albert Heijn is conducting its pilot program at the private property of High Tech Campus Eindhoven. The supermarket chain has also noted that this is a small test and currently, there’s no definitive timeline of when it could hit the streets.
Even though the current tests were successful, the delivery robot is said to have faced some difficulty with high curbs. The company is also in wait for an amendment to the legislation, which would make it legal for such autonomous delivery robots to traverse the streets. “The legislator must think carefully about it, I understand that,” says Andre ten Wolde of pizza chain Domino’s. “You don’t want accidents like the one at the Stint. As soon as the legislator is ready, we will also see them on the street.”
The self-driving delivery robot is also expensive as the current prototype costs somewhere between €50,000 and €100,000 depending on the configuration. However, its price is expected to be lowered to around €10,000 to €20,000 in the near future.
Stay tuned to Silicon Canals for more updates in the tech startup world.