Dezeen Magazine

Continental's autonomous robot dogs could help deliver parcels

Continental's autonomous robot dogs could help deliver parcels

German automotive company Continental wants to use a system of autonomous vans packed with dog-like four-legged robots to deliver packages.

The company revealed its vision for the future of goods and parcel delivery this week at tech show CES in Las Vegas, where it held a press conference with a prototype of one of the robots on stage.

The concept is based around Continental's driverless electric vehicle, the Continental Urban Mobility Experience (CUbE), a minibus-sized pod whose interior can be reconfigured to suit different functions.

The company has paired the vehicle with delivery robots – also autonomous and electric – to enable the system to handle the "last yards" of the parcel delivery chain.

Continental's autonomous robot dogs could help deliver parcels
The delivery robots would be moved around in autonomous vans, before being released to handle the "last yards" of the parcel delivery chain

"With the help of robot delivery, Continental's vision for seamless mobility can extend right to your doorstep," said Continental's Ralph Lauxmann, who is head of systems and technology in the chassis and safety division. "Our vision of cascaded robot delivery leverages a driverless vehicle to carry delivery robots, creating an efficient transport team."

Prototype resembles Boston Dynamics robot

The prototype robot showcased on the CES stage has features and locomotion similar to Boston Dynamics' famous quadrupedal SpotMini, but renderings for the concept suggest a cuter, more rounded canine appearance.

According to Continental, the same technologies that power an autonomous vehicle like CUbE are applied to the robots. Sensors, environment perception and modelling, positioning and situation analysis are among the areas in which the company has currently developed solutions.

Continental says that an efficient autonomous mobility system could focus on moving passengers during the day and switch to delivering goods at night, when people are more likely to be at home to receive their packages. The system could be almost 24/7.

"There will be peaks in demand for driverless vehicles during the day," said Continental North America director of systems and technology Jeremy McClain. "To make use of driverless vehicles outside those peak 'rush' hours is where robot-delivery comes in."

"We see great potential in our automotive technology to support robotics companies in developing autonomous delivery robots as an additional use case for driverless vehicles."

Parcel delivery is growing market

The company notes that parcel delivery is a growing market, thanks to ever-increasing e-commerce, and sites research that says automated goods delivery will constitute up to 80 percent of all business-to-consumer deliveries in the future.

Drones are a commonly discussed delivery solution, with high-profile concepts coming from Google, UPS and Amazon, the latter of which has also filed a patent for flying warehouses.

Among the terrestrial options is Starship Technologies' delivery robot, which handles local deliveries such as groceries and is already operational in Europe.

CES continues in Las Vegas until January 11. Among the other innovations unveiled at this year's event is LG's new roll-up OLED TV and five designs in the running for US$1 million in funding from Toyota's Mobility Unlimited Challenge.