Having arrived in the city, the passenger leaves the vehicle. Suddenly, a small robot on four wheels crosses the curb. It yields to the pedestrians before rolling toward an office building. In the lobby, it finds the recipient of the goods that it's transporting. The little courier delivers the package and finds its own way back to the “mother ship” – another driverless shuttle.
This encounter illustrates a further element of the system. In every city, there are times when demand for passenger transport is low. During these times, the shuttles can be used for the transport of goods – a rapidly expanding sector. Here, the shuttles carry a small fleet of delivery robots to strategically useful locations from which the robots ensure that the goods are delivered right up to the mailbox. During these times of low passenger transport demand, the existing shuttles are gainfully employed on the one hand, and on the other, the issue of increased personnel requirements for the delivery of goods is also addressed.
The “Corriere” – Italian for “courier” – with the suffix “LM” for Last Mile is Continental's first robot vehicle concept for autonomous delivery transport. A total weight of up to 15 kilograms can be stowed under its loading hatch. The electric vehicle travels at a speed of up to 8 km/h (approx. 4 mph) and is tailor-made for sidewalks. This means that the agile robot is ideal for short distances of around 5 kilometers (3 miles).
“We currently see outstanding opportunities for its use in Asia in particular,” says Andreas Mandl, head of the Robotics Laboratory. “Countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan are very open to this concept. Efforts are underway there to create a regulatory framework and there are countless funding projects." When the Corriere is on the road, the recipients can monitor the delivery robot’s location at all times. When the robot reaches its destination, they can open the loading hatch via the app and remove the goods. Initial test deliveries in a real-life environment will begin in 2020. “We don’t want to become the next DHL, UPS, or FedEx. What is conceivable, however, is that these logistics companies will benefit from our robot-as-a-service model in the future,” says Mandl. “So our vision of seamless mobility leads straight to the front door.”
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