Clevon, an driverless delivery innovator, and large Lithuanian grocery chain IKI are bringing what they claim is Europe’s first fleet of Autonomous Robot Carriers (ARCs) onto public roads.
Three driverless carriers will offer daily commercial delivery services in the busy Vilnius city centre area and be operated by the last-mile transportation platform LastMile.
Orders will be collected at the IKI store on Mindaugas Street and delivered for free directly to customers’ homes in the city centre area. ARCs deliver the goods and have lockable compartments of different sizes, suitable for smaller and larger online grocery orders.
The fleet of robots can deliver seven customer orders in a single run in the capital’s New Town and Old Town districts.
Last year, LastMile and Clevon carried out a pilot project in the Vilnius suburban district of Balsiai – this was the first deployment of driverless delivery robots in Lithuania. In three months, the robot travelled around 2,000 km and showed good performance.
Tadas Norušaitis, CEO and co-founder of LastMile, says: “The trial paid off with an overall score of 4.8 out of 5, and shoppers were keen to try the innovation.
“Meanwhile, we have seen that we can deliver goods even more efficiently and flexibly, with less environmental impact, thanks to electric motors.
“After a successful test, we are taking the next step – for the first time in Europe, as many as three autonomous carriers will be part of the traffic in city centre streets.
“We believe that these robots will give us a significant advantage in the delivery sector, as customers will receive their goods quickly, even in the city center, and even during peak hours.
“Speed is becoming one of the most important criteria for shoppers when choosing a home delivery method – even 95% of our customers buy goods with delivery within a few hours.”
The pilot project also proved that robots can drive autonomously in a wide range of conditions – in the rain, on unpaved roads, in the snow, and in puddles after rain.
According to Nijolė Kvietkauskaitė, CEO of IKI Lietuva, the e-commerce market in Lithuania is very vibrant, so it is crucial always to be one step ahead.
Kvietkauskaitė says: “Today’s shopper expects an even more seamless shopping experience – and we are helping to meet this expectation with bold technological innovations such as autonomous stores and autonomous cars that deliver purchases quickly, safely and conveniently.
“We can promise our shoppers that we will continue to lead the way in Lithuania by introducing retail innovations that will create an even better consumer experience.”
Clevon’s CEO, Sander Sebastian Agur, highlighted that the partnership with Rewe Group through IKI and LastMile is a major commercial achievement for Clevon: “Our team keeps proving that autonomous deliveries are here to stay, and we’re expanding our operations from single vehicles to fleets in Europe, the US, and in the Middle East region.
“Clevon was the first in Europe to get permission to operate driverless carriers on public roads in 2020. Now, we’re making history again by being the first to deploy a fleet of ARCs for commercial deliveries on Europe’s public roads, right here in Lithuania. This is just the beginning!”
Starting on 27 June, the autonomous carriers will spend two months delivering shopping in a larger and much busier area than in the pilot project, driving through the streets of the capital’s city center.
To ensure maximum safety, the autonomous carriers will travel at a maximum speed of 25 km/h. They will be able to navigate the streets safely thanks to 360-degree cameras and special sensors. The carriers will be telesupervised by teleoperators who monitor the driving in real-time.
On Tuesday, a public demo was carried out at the robotics launch event, where the autonomous carriers navigated a specially designed obstacle course without mistakes.
The autonomous delivery will be completely free of charge. After ordering, customers will receive a text message telling them when the robot will arrive and a code that will unlock its door.