A delivery robot produced by Estonian firm Clevon started trialing Wednesday in the small Belgian town of Londerzeel which, should it prove successful will pave the way to an expansion nationwide in Belgium, partnering with one of the largest chain stores in that country.
If the pilot project in Londerzeel, which lies between Brussels and Antwerp, proves successful, the company will have the opportunity to expand across the country with one of the largest store chains in Belgium.
The Clevon robot courier operates on the public roads and not the sidewalk, and will travel between the Colruyt Group distribution center and the chain store of the same name, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Wednesday.
The test run was controlled online, but future deliveries will be automated, AK reported, while an exception has been made to Belgian law, which would not permit truly driverless vehicles on the roads, to allow the service to function, AK said.
Sander Sebastian Agur, CEO at Clevon, said: "We were able to bring a lot of experience from Estonia. We have been operating on Estonian roads for two-and-a-half years already. And the experience we have on Estonian roads was taken very seriously here and as a basis for allowing us on the roads here."
Kristof Rombaut, a regional intelligent transport systems engineer, said that the Federal Transport Authority together with the province of Flemish Brabant, agreed to the exception due to a mixed model of the robot uses.
He said: "Federal Authorities, together with us, did indeed accept the exception, because here you have a mixed model. The vehicle itself also has sensors that will act upon traffic, so that human interaction automation can indeed be switched, which is technologically quite revolutionary, especially in putting it on the open roads in Belgium for the first time."
While Tallinn residents may be used to different parcel robots, in Belgium this still requires some adaptation, though there is potential to expand significantly there, AK reported, with possible volumes many times larger than those in Estonia.
For example, the Colruyt group's turnover last year came to nearly €10 billion.
Agur added that: "We are first testing here in Londerzeel, after which we will be looking at new locations to expand the service into. We have received some very strong indications from the Colruyt group, which means that we may be able to cover the whole of Belgium using our robots, depending on how well we do here in Londerzeel. So we'll take things step-by-step."
The Clevon brand is operated by Cleveron Mobility AS, who also recently inked a two-month pilot deal with Tallinn City Government, servicing the old town.
Cleveron also produces automated parcel machines.
Small delivery robots have become a common sight in Tallinn in recent years and don't seem to have fazed the public. Some of these are operated by Clevon competitor and fellow Estonian firm Starship.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel
Source: Aktuaalne kaamera