Grocery delivery and laundry pick up is about to go sci-fi.
The mothership descends–or in this case, pulls up to the curb–and dispenses a fleet of six-wheeled robots tasked with delivering groceries and dry cleaning throughout a specific neighborhood. We’re not talking about the latest sci-fi flick, however. We’re talking about a real-life project funded by Mercedes-Benz to explore the potential of robots for making last-mile delivery services more efficient.
The car giant is partnering with Starship Technologies on its vision for a futuristic van. A CNN Money article notes that Mercedes is plunking down a $560 million investment over the next five years to develop the electric van equipped with the latest robot and drone technology, including Starship Technologies’ robot fleet.
The van will ferry around up to eight ground robots to a neighborhood, where they will be deployed to do their stuff before rolling back onto the van, restocked with supplies, and carted off to the next neighborhood. Teaming the mothership van and robots is an efficient strategy, officials contend, because on their own, vans are inefficient for completing last-mile deliveries while robots are too slow to drive to their intended targets from a centralized distribution center. The mothership concept allows for the completion of eight deliveries at a time compared with the traditional model of one.
Pilot tests are the next logical step and there is no commitment yet for what cities will be first. One thing was made clear: While a robot will make your delivery, they will not yet take over the driver’s seat just yet.