The future of robot transportation is here, and it has arrived in the form of a soccer mom’s dream vehicle. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, automated delivery innovators Starship Technologies have unveiled their delivery-bot motherships, and they are minivans.
While Amazon’s drone delivery dreams have stolen most of the headlines over the past few years, Starship Technologies has taken a more down-to-earth approach to robotic delivery, developing squat little automated rovers that can drive packages right up to your doorstep. Their “sidewalk robots” are good for their short trips around the neighborhood, but the question of what their central mothership would look like was unknown until recently.
In a press release put out yesterday, Starship revealed the Robovan, a modified Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, developed in conjunction with the German automotive giant. Once their service begin, the robovans, which are still driven by a human (for now…), will post up in one spot in a neighborhood and deploy its fleet of automated delivery bots which will then trundle out to drop off their packages, before automatically returning to the van. Each van will be able to hold some 400 packages in a storage system that hangs above the little robots in their floor lanes.
According to Starship’s press release, the van+sidewalk robot method of delivery will be “the most efficient, cost effective and convenient local delivery method in the world.” In addition to lowering the emissions produced by standard transport vehicles, the robovans are expected to increase the productivity of a given vehicle by over 120%, over previous delivery methods. Here’s to the humble mini-van, and also our future robot overlords.