From today, residents of Alcobendas will be able to get a surprise when shopping through an app or web page. “Congratulations! Your order will be delivered by our robot Pillar. Click here to find out more”, this will be the confirmation message that some customers of the Dia supermarket network will receive after validating their order. Instead of traditional delivery people, users will take the bags inside a docile-looking robot, which walks on four wheels along the sidewalks as if it were another pedestrian at a speed five kilometers per hour.
It is the first time in Spain that autonomous robots perform commercial tasks. The mobility company Goggo Network, responsible for the operation, developed a pilot project in Zaragoza last July to map the streets. But in the Madrid town of Alcobendas, that process has already been completed and the Consistory has given the go-ahead to start the robots after safety tests were approved. It thus becomes the first Spanish city, and one of the first in Europe, to have robotic delivery people.
In addition to Dia, the Telepizza company will also have its automated delivery people in this first phase of the start-up, which will take place in a radius of two square kilometers in the center of Alcobendas with a fleet of five robots, although they hope to reach twenty . Orders are placed directly through the apps or websites of both companies. When there is confirmation, the robot goes to the physical store where the staff opens the box by means of a code and deposits the order. Then, this 100% electric automaton, which weighs about 50 kilos, goes to the delivery address.
From the supermarket or restaurant to homes or offices, the robot moves autonomously or remotely depending on the situation. It is equipped with internal and external cameras and sensors that allow real-time environment recognition, 360-degree viewing to detect pedestrians, animals or bicycles, among other obstacles. You must also respect the mobility rules. If there’s a zebra crossing in the road, for example, the robot sends an alert to the central office, where a Goggo operator takes control, looks back and forth through the cameras, and drives through. Each has the capacity to work for 5, 8 or 12 hours, depending on the model. And before its battery runs out, the robot goes to the company’s headquarters in Alcobendas to recharge its batteries before continuing its work.
Sara Nicolás, foreign affairs manager at Goggo Network, explains that the whole process is “the same as a traditional delivery” with a delivery person on a bicycle or motorbike. “The only difference is that he doesn’t climb stairs,” admits Nicolás. That is, customers have to go down to the portals to receive their orders. And if they’re making a really big purchase, it’s likely to be someone doing the delivery, since the devices are only capable of carrying a few bags; They will only be assigned to the order if the volume allows it.
If this technology is a novelty and arouses the curiosity of the population, it is not yet clear if it will result in a drop in the price of deliveries. Dia España’s director of e-commerce operations, Pedro Gallego, maintains that “there is no additional cost” for customers who have the service. As to whether this fleet of wheeled robots will affect delivery people, who could lose their jobs, Gallego assures that there are still no figures: “It will have an impact on the work of the last mile, but it does not will have no impact on employment in general”. ”.
The company Goggo Networks also does not estimate the cost of the investment to bring the robots to the streets, but assured that it will generate jobs related to the supervision and operation of the robots. Eduardo Uriarte, its vice president of technology, says the company is sustainable once there are about 80 robots in operation and adds that the company intends to expand to other locations in the coming months as new business alliances are established.
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