Press 1 for drone delivery, 2 for delivery by robot. Switzerland’s postal service is already testing mail delivery by drones. Starting in September, Swiss Post will begin trials with Starship Technologies‘ self-driving robots. The machines will be used to deliver parcels within a 5km (3.1 mile) radius, according to CNN Money.
The 6-wheel delivery robots will be hauling dummy packages during the first few months of the test, according to Claudia Pletscher, Swiss Post head of development programs and innovation. There is no plan to use the robots exclusively for ground deliveries. “We don’t believe in substituting the human being part,” said Pletscher.
The first objective is to measure pedestrian and customer reactions to the five robots in the initial testing. If the feedback is positive, then Swiss Post will decide about further deployment and use with real packages.
Customers will control the delivery system, which starts when placing an order. A customer that selects robot delivery also specifies a delivery time. For example, you might order a prescription from work, but want it delivered when you’re at home.
The robot is programmed to avoid or stop for pedestrians, animals, and vehicles en route. An onboard GPS location system guides the robot to its destination and allows the dispatch center to track its progress. When it shows up at a customer’s door, a preselected passcode unlocks the parcel compartment on the robot’s top surface.
The metallic mailman can operate day and night. LED lights alert pedestrians to its presence and forward motion lighting not only lets others see it moving, but also illuminates the space a short distance ahead so the robot’s cameras can detect obstacles.
Starship Technologies’ delivery robots are also being tested in Great Britain and Germany. Testing will start in Washington, D.C. later this fall.
The current Starship Technologies robot isn’t appropriate for all delivery sizes and types, but it could be perfect for automated delivery of prescriptions, late night cheesecake, or even an anniversary card you forgot to buy while you were out.