Starting today, Alcobendas residents will be able to get a surprise when they make purchases through an app or web page. Congratulations! Your order will be delivered by our robot column. Click here to find out more”, this will be the confirmation message that some customers of Zia Supermarket Network will receive after confirming their order. Instead of traditional delivery people, users will take the bags from inside a docile robot, traveling on four wheels along sidewalks as if it were another pedestrian at five kilometers per hour.
It is the first time in Spain that autonomous robots are carrying out commercial missions. Mobility company Goggo Network, which is responsible for the operation, developed a pilot project in Zaragoza last July to map the streets. But in Madrid’s Alcobendas, that process has already ended and Consistory has given the green light to start operating the robots after agreeing to safety tests. It thus became the first Spanish city and one of the first in Europe to have delivery robots.
In addition to Dia, Telepizza will also have an automated delivery man in this first phase of startup, in times of high demand. Deliveries will take place within a radius of two square kilometers in the center of Alcobendas with a total fleet of five robots, although they hope to reach twenty. Applications are submitted directly through the applications or websites of both companies. When there is confirmation, the bot goes to the physical store where employees open the box by code and deposit the order. Then, this 100% electric automatic, which weighs about 50 kilograms, goes to the delivery address.
From the supermarket or restaurant to homes or offices, the robot moves independently or remotely depending on the situation. It is equipped with cameras and internal and external sensors that allow real-time recognition of the environment, and 360-degree visualization to detect pedestrians, animals or bicycles, among other obstacles. You also have to respect the rules of movement. If there’s a zebra crossing on the road, for example, the robot sends an alert to the central office, where a Goggo operator takes control, looking both ways through cameras and crosses. Each one has the ability to run for 5, 8 or 12 hours, depending on the model. Before its battery runs out, the robot heads to the company’s headquarters in Alcobendas to recharge before continuing its work.
Sarah Nicholas, Goggo Network’s Head of External Affairs, explains that the whole process is “a bit like a traditional delivery” with a delivery worker on a bike or motorcycle. “The only difference is that he doesn’t climb the stairs,” admits Nicholas. Meaning, customers have to go down to the portals to receive their orders. And if they make a very large purchase, it is probably the person who does the delivery, because the machines are only able to hold a few bags; It will only be made to order if size allows.
While this technology is a novelty and intriguing residents, it is not yet clear whether it will mean a drop in the price of connections. Dia España’s director of e-commerce operations, Pedro Gallego, assures there is “no additional cost” for customers who have the service. On whether this fleet of wheeled robots will affect delivery men, who may lose their jobs, Gallego stresses that there are no figures yet: “It will have an impact on work in the last stage, but it will not have an impact on employment in general.”
Goggo Networks also doesn’t estimate the investment cost to bring the bots to the streets, but it has confirmed that it will provide jobs related to supervising and operating the bots. Eduardo Uriarte, Vice President of Technology, confirmed that the business 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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