Mercedes-Benz Vans has taken a lead investor role in a 16.5m euro (£14.4m) funding round in a start-up company that develops ground-based, autonomous delivery robots.
Mercedes-Benz Vans said its involvement underpins its strategic, long-term collaboration with Starship Technologies that has already developed a prototype combining the advantages of a van with those of an autonomous delivery robot. Introduced back in September 2016, the development uses a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter as a mobile loading and transport hub for eight robots. This was showcased at this month’s CES 2017 show in Las Vegas.
Pilot projects combining Mercedes-Benz vans and delivery robots are planned to be initiated in Europe over the course of this year. The plan is to begin widespread testing of the joint concept with one or several logistics partners. The launch of the pilot project in a real-world environment is scheduled to take place later this year.
Mercedes-Benz Vans is to invest some 500 million euros (£436m) in the advancement of digitisation, automation and robotics in vans as well as in mobility offerings until 2020.
Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, said: “On the one hand, the introduction of the van as a mobile hub widens the operational radius of the robots significantly, while also rendering superfluous the cost-intensive construction and operation of decentralised warehouses.
“We see the combination of these two technologies as an opportunity to give our van customers access to some completely new services and business models. At the same time, we make the delivery process much more convenient for the end customer. For example, the concept makes it much easier to deliver goods to the end customer on time.”