Two driverless delivery vehicles are being presented this week at electronics fair, CES. A pizza delivery bus bakes the fresh pizza while the vehicle is en route. And a fruit and vegetables bus is bringing the mobile shop back to the road.
The pizza bus comes from Toyota who are planning to expand autonomous deliveries together with Pizza Hut and other companies such as Amazon. The Japanese carmaker aims to make the bus multifunctional, with space for a pizza oven, but also for a bed or office, so that the e-Palette can also serve as a mobile hotel room.
SELECTING RIPE MELONS
In the meantime, Robomart plans to bring fruit and vegetables from the supermarket into the home. Although supermarket delivery services are becoming more and more popular, also in the Netherlands, it would appear that only a small proportion of the customers order vegetables online. Robomart believes that this is because people don’t trust the packing staff: Customers prefer to pick a ripe melon or fresh cauliflower themselves.
That will soon be possible, thanks to an autonomous vehicle operating with software from the hardware company, Nvidia. The vehicle has a number of shelves with fresh vegetables, and the customer opens the vehicle using an app. The customer then selects the desired vegetables, locks the vehicle again and walks back home. The shelves even automatically record which vegetables the customer chose, and ensures that the amount due is paid via the app.
A first prototype is now ready, and Robomart presented it proudly at the CES. The company now plans to apply for an operating permit in California. The state, where technology Valhalla, Silicon Valley, is located, already has various experiments with autonomous vehicles running.
DELIVERY PERSONNEL TOO EXPENSIVE
Both initiatives show that companies have a need for automatic delivery. They probably find that human delivery personnel are too expensive and are urgently looking for alternatives. Without delivery personnel, the vehicles can operate day and night. If there’s a pizza oven in the vehicle, you can be sure that you will always get a fresh pizza even if you live a long way from the pizzeria.
By the way: Pizza Hut is not the first company to experiment with autonomous technology. Last year, Domino's in the Netherlands reported that they planned to employ small delivery vehicles with a maximum speed of 5 km/h. Those are small mobile cans, however, whereas Toyota intends to make a real delivery bus autonomous. If it depends on the carmaker, the first models will be available in time for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
That appears to be optimistic, because safe autonomous driving means that a vehicle is able to anticipate even unpredictable human driving behaviour. How Toyota (and Robomart) plan to overcome the technical obstacles is still in the dark at the moment.
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Opening picture: A few ideas that Toyota has for the autonomous delivery vehicle.
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