Santa Claus will be facing some stiff competition this Christmas from a cute-looking, talking last-mile delivery robot bringing presents to residents in two parts of the Finnish capital of Helsinki.
The bot, an autonomous battery-electric wheeled vehicle dubbed HeRo after ‘Helsinki Robot’, will be used to take up the extra demand for home deliveries during the festive season and will be trialed until the end of the year. Chief in the trial will be the assessment of the little vehicle's ability to cope with Finland's harsh winter conditions with ice- and snow-covered roads.
The city’s innovation company, Forum Virium Helsinki, says its aim is to test how the robot can help meet delivery demand. It claims HeRo will be able to deliver parcels to customers’ doors within an hour of ordering from the online shop of their choice.
The service will be made available to residents of the Ruoholahti or North Jätkäsaari districts of the city where they do not have access to a mailing office for local parcel deliveries. During the pilot project, HeRo will deliver parcels on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
The robot, manufactured by the bot specialist LMAD with offices in both Finland and France, was first trialed the in the city’s Kalasatama district from May to August, when the talkative robot delivered tools from the Würth Center to nearby construction sites.
According to the forum’s project manager Satu Reijonen, the robot was well-received at the worksites and several international innovation operators in the smart-city development sector came to observe from as far afield as Asia. He says: “In this second phase, we are testing the same robot for emission-free online shopping deliveries. We are studying consumers’ reception of the new service, and (whether) this could be the future of smarter logistics. In the next phase, in spring 2024, we will expand our cooperation with various logistics operators so that we can optimize the delivery routes in terms of saving resources. Cooperation and shared rules would make it easier for the industry to operate as a whole and moving to emission-free deliveries would be faster.”