At CES 2019, the transport firm Continental pushed the boundaries of autonomous vehicle technology, showed how a driverless utility van could be used to stage and deploy delivery robot dogs, taking packages from the vehicle to a customer’s doorstep.
In the demonstrations, the battery-powered ANYmal robot, manufactured by Swiss robotics manufacturer ANYbotics, walked out of Continental’s CUbE (Continental Urban mobility Experience) demo vehicle, stepped over an object in its path and marched up the front steps of a model front porch. After reaching the door, the robot rings the doorbell with its paw and leans over to slide the package of its back.
“With the help of robot delivery, Continental’s vision for seamless mobility can extend right to your doorstep. Our vision of cascaded robot delivery leverages a driverless vehicle to carry delivery robots, creating an efficient transport team,” said Ralph Lauxmann, Head of Systems & Technology, Chassis & Safety division, Continental, in a statement.
“Both are electrified, both are autonomous and, in principle, both can be based on the same scalable technology portfolio. These synergies create an exciting potential for holistic delivery concepts using similar solutions for different platforms. Beyond this technology foundation, it’s reasonable to expect a whole value chain to develop in this area.”
The robot weighs 66 pounds and can carry boxes up to 22 pounds. AI navigates the Black Mirror-like dog through wide-angle cameras, sensor-studded feet, and a high-tech radar system.
Continental has focused research on the last mile, a term used in supply chain management/transportation planning to describe how goods move to their final destination.
The company wants to use robot dogs and autonomous vehicles for goods and parcel delivery to residential areas, a rapidly developing market thanks to e-commerce sales.
Continental believes that the last mile of goods delivery should be automated, it will be an integral part of future urban mobility. Driverless vehicles like the CUbE can transport multiple robot dogs that could handle the last yards of the goods and parcel delivery logistics chain.
“Industrializing the automation of goods delivery requires reliable, robust, high-performing and best-cost technology – a mix perfectly reflected in the automotive equivalent of automation. It is this very profile of expertise that has made Continental one of the industry-leading suppliers of advanced driver assistance systems and vehicle automation,” said Ralph Lauxmann, Head of Systems & Technology, Chassis & Safety division, Continental.
Automating the last mile with robot dogs and driverless vehicles represents the next big thing for smart cities in the future, and it also serves as a warning that thousands of gig-economy last mile jobs are about to be eliminated.