Swiss start-up TeleRetail is testing a delivery robot capable of travelling up to fifty miles.
Smart cities need smarter logistics systems if they are to achieve the smooth transport of goods from A to B. Various technology companies have set about automating that process. Amazon is currently testing delivery drones in the UK, while ground-based solutions are being trialled by Hermes and Starship Technologies.
Swiss start-up TeleRetail is the latest to set its sights on finding a solution to the challenge. The company’s ONE line of self-driving robots harness artificial intelligence, computer vision systems and GPS-aided navigation to pick up and drop off packages. They do so autonomously, representing the next wave of what TeleRetail calls “local micro transportation”.
Taking automated delivery further
Often, proposed delivery solutions create as many problems as they solve. For every dollar or minute saved, there seems to be another challenge in terms of infrastructure or questions surrounding safety. Before those issues even arise, it’s key that the system has enough range to make transportation this way worth it.
Automated urban couriers delivering over short distances may eventually prove to be a genuine solution, but it’s long-range logistics and networks connecting isolated places that will bring the most value.
Recognizing that, Teleretail’s prototype is a delivery robot capable of travelling up to fifty miles, making it ideal for suburban and rural deliveries.
A summer of testing
The TeleRetail team plans to expand testing over the summer to several real world scenarios in Europe and the US. Pilots have been cleared to start in Washington DC, Sunnyvale in California and Idaho. A number of Swiss mountain villages will also provide a different kind of test for TeleRetail’s burgeoning technology.
Although it could be a while until these plans come to fruition, TeleRetail is already considering how best to monetize its autonomous deliveries. Speaking with TechCrunch, CEO Thorsten Scholl said that the company’s aim is to help smaller businesses compete with the convenience offered by the commercial giants.
How this translates into a business model remains to be seen, but Scholl has suggested that a subscription service is the most likely way forward.
“We think of ourselves as a consumer app that applies robotics to local logistics,” he said. “We could envision a subscription-based model, where a consumer can subscribe to the delivery service, or a store could subscribe to it in order to make deliveries that its employees cannot make in person.”
A cheap, efficient and autonomous on-demand courier service would certainly be appealing to businesses and consumers. Fortunately for TeleRetail, there remains no stand-out in the race for autonomous delivery. The Swiss start-up thus has plenty of time to perfect its technology and finalize a business model.
It’s currently funding the project with support from a European Space Agency grant and several sponsors, and has yet to turn to seed or venture capital.