Parcel delivery business Hermes is trialling the use of driverless robots for deliveries in the London borough of Southwark.
Hermes has partnered with Starship Technologies on the initiative, which has already rolled out its “Coolbox-on-Wheels” food delivery drone on the Greenwich peninsula.
Initially the Hermes robots will be used for customer collections/returns or for small businesses sending items using MyHermes. By employing the robots Hermes will be able to offer 30-minute timeslots to customers but moving forward it said the service could offer greater scheduling and tracking capabilities.
Each robot will be 55cm high by 70cm long and will be capable of moving up to 10kg of parcels. The six-wheeled boxes will move at up to 4mph and can be used within a two-mile radius of their control centre. Customers will be able to open it using a link generated by a smartphone app.
“Starship Technologies is a highly innovative and pioneering firm. We are extremely pleased to utilise their expertise to explore exciting new ways that will further strengthen our portfolio of services and offer greater choice and convenience for customers. We can already see first-hand the success they’ve had with food deliveries in London, and we are excited to team up with them in a bid to revolutionise the home delivery marketplace,” said Hermes CEO Carole Woodhead.
The goal is for the robots to be 99% autonomous in future but can be connected to a human operator via GPS or the internet. It is also planned that in the future one operator can control several robots and take over control if need be.
The land-based robots are seen as a viable alternative to flying drones, such as those being trialled by Amazon, which can run into issues with strict aviation laws.