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DPD trials robotic delivery of ecommerce parcels

Image courtesy of DPD

DPD is trialling autonomous robots in Milton Keynes as it looks to see if it could take delivery traffic off the roads. It says the move could make delivery more sustainable, adding to its fleets of electric delivery vehicles, but that robots aren’t going to be replacing drivers any time soon. 

The delivery company will use robots from last mile and robotic delivery specialist Cartken to deliver parcels from its Knowlhill depot to the residential areas of Shenley Church End and Shenley Lodge. The robots will use the city’s traffic-free Redway network and are currently learning the routes via machine-learning technology before finding their way to delivery addresses autonomously. 

Customers will be notified of a robot delivery in advance, which will be dispatched once they confirm they are at home to accept it. They will then be able to track the progress of the DPD branded robot on a map before being notified when it reaches their property. Using a code, they will then open the robot’s secure compartment to get their parcel. Once the compartment is closed the robot will return to the depot for its next delivery. Each will deliver up to 30 parcels a day. Here’s a video of what that will look like.

Cartken robots use level four autonomy and navigation technology that is also being used by Mitsubishi in Japan and Grub Hub in the US.

If the trial is successful, DPD plans to extend the robotic deliveries across Milton Keynes, enabling it to start removing delivery vans from the road network.

“This is a really important trial for us,” says Elaine Kerr, DPD UK chief executive. “We want to understand the role that delivery robots could play in certain locations in the UK. They are a sustainable solution, and we genuinely want to find out if they could help us take vans off the road in future. The technology is proven and with the DPD branding, they look fantastic. The public’s response to our EV fleet has been amazing, so I am confident these smart robots will be embraced by customers as part of the way forward.

“Realistically, we aren’t going to be completely replacing our delivery drivers anytime soon.  And we wouldn’t want to.  The service they provide is fantastic.  But at DPD we’ve always led the way on innovation and investment in our network and this is the next logical step in terms of evolving delivery solutions and working towards our aim of being the UK’s most sustainable delivery company.” 

The trial adds to DPD’s plans to have more than 3,000 electric vehicles on the road in the UK this year and by 5,000 by 2023, delivering to 30 towns and cities on all-electric vehicles. 

Cartken co-founder and COO Anjali Jindal Naik says: ”Our robots are designed to provide sustainable solutions that integrate into existing city infrastructure. We are thrilled to be a part of DPD’s sustainability plan as they adopt more environmentally conscious solutions through the use of our delivery robots.”

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