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Swiss Post to test self-driving delivery robots

Communication dated 23.08.2016

From September 2016, Swiss Post will conduct tests with self-driving delivery robots to assess their suitability for goods delivery over the last mile. Models from manufacturer Starship Technologies will be used. They have a load capacity of up to 10 kg and can transport goods over a distance of around 6 km. In future, delivery robots could make an excellent addition to delivery logistics and fill a gap in the market that Swiss Post has not yet explored.

From September 2016, Swiss Post will conduct tests with delivery robots as an additional delivery solution which could in future be used selectively to complement parcel delivery. In specific terms, Swiss Post envisages using this solution for special items that need to be delivered flexibly, quickly and inexpensively in a local neighbourhood. Some of the conceivable applications include same-day and same-hour delivery, grocery deliveries or even home deliveries of medical products. This kind of ad-hoc logistics on the last mile is currently not covered by mail carriers, which is why delivery robots may one day provide a useful extension to Swiss Post’s supply chain. Depending on the test results, Swiss Post expects to see the first commercial applications starting in three years’ time at the earliest.

The delivery robots will travel at walking pace on pavements and in pedestrian zones, navigate autonomously to their destination and avoid obstacles and danger points automatically. The limited distance that delivery robots can travel means that they are suitable for consignments that need to be delivered flexibly, quickly and inexpensively delivered in a local neighbourhood. Unlike delivery robots, drones can travel further and at a higher speed, so they are beneficial when transporting high-priority consignments or for making deliveries to people who live in isolated areas. Together, the individual benefits of each technology will offer an outstanding combination.

Test journeys to various locations

The delivery robots will be tested in the municipalities of Berne, Köniz and Biberist so that they can be assessed in a range of situations. The Starship delivery robots are products featuring highly advanced technology and are currently also being tested by companies in Germany and the UK for a variety of applications. The robots navigate using a mixture of geolocation signals (e.g. GPS) and visual recognition of the environment using multiple cameras. At awkward points and in cases of doubt, a remote operator takes control of the parcel robot from a distance. The parcel robot also “learns” with every journey, thus increasing its level of autonomy. The delivery robots are always accompanied and monitored by a person during the test journeys so that as much information on its operation as possible can be collected.