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LMAD and DB Schenker: Autonomous Parcel Delivery in the Heart of Helsinki

March 3, 2021

For the past two years, LMAD has been building a robot-agnostic software platform to help manage and optimize last mile deliveries with the help of autonomous delivery robots (ADRs). The platform has been deployed for various use cases, including food delivery (of both hot meals and groceries), however, our primary focus and target use case is logistics, and parcel delivery in particular. Our mission is to build a smart, sustainable and easy-to-deploy solution for logistics providers.

In 2020, our collaboration with DB Schenker, one of the global leaders in logistics solutions and supply chain management, resulted in a successful month-long parcel delivery experiment near the center of Helsinki. We’re excited to tell you more about it—and you can also see our video from the experiment below:

 

The experiment’s location, CityHUB: accessibility and convenience

We have been collaborating with DB Schenker in Finland since August 2020, when Samuli Salmela, DB Schenker’s Head of Digital Transformation for Europe, visited us at the Aalto University campus in Espoo, where we were running our ongoing delivery pilot trial.

For our experiment, we used DB Schenker’s existing presence in the center of Helsinki. The chosen location was CityHUB, a logistics hub in Helsinki, which is a part of the Shared Micro depots for Urban pickup and Delivery (S.M.U.D.) project, locally coordinated by Forum Virium Helsinki. This location has many benefits, which facilitated the organization and deployment of the experiment. CityHUB is:

  • Located just outside the busiest and most dense part of Helsinki’s city center
  • Easily reachable by delivery vans
  • Directly accessible from Baana, a bicycle and pedestrian path and a former railway, which cuts through the city center.

The LMAD prototype robot, developed by our partner GIM Robotics, is currently authorized to run in public spaces in Finland for test purposes. And, as far as we know, this is the first autonomous delivery robot in the Helsinki region to have this authorization.

 

The experiment’s deployment phase: last mile autonomous delivery in Helsinki

After an agile planning phase in autumn 2020, we deployed the solution mid-November, and the pilot phase of the experiment ran until Christmas.

On a typical test delivery day, a DB Schenker delivery van would bring parcels to the CityHUB in the morning, and the courier would load them in the robot. The LMAD platform handles the communication with the existing DB Schenker parcel delivery system, optimizes and controls the robots’ delivery mission, and communicates with the recipients about their delivery in a timely manner.

During the first phase we had pre-selected office building destinations and delivered real parcels to DB Schenker recipients. The delivery was fully autonomous and its execution was seamless. In the next phases we’ll expand the delivery area to include more destinations, and we’re also planning to involve end-consumers as recipients.

We are continuously expanding our fleet and adding various types of delivery robots. We have integrated larger parcel lockers in our current robots, addressing the needs of batch optimization. We are planning to add smaller versions to suit on-demand deliveries soon.

 

Autonomous last mile delivery in context

Consumerization, urbanization and digitalization are the three main driving forces behind the growth of demand for more delivery options on the last mile, as Samuli Salmela rightfully points out.

In parallel, e-commerce is rapidly growing, both globally and in Europe. In 2020, nearly 90% of internet users in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany have made online purchases, according to an Eurostat report from January 2021. Across the EU, this percentage is currently at 72%, and is expected to continue to grow steadily in the next few years.

This development was further accelerated by the pandemic, and we can confidently conclude that the resulting level of penetration of the online retail sector is permanent. In this context, optimizing last mile delivery logistics is critical, and autonomous robots provide a scalable solution to this demand. The convenience of easily selecting and modifying a parcel’s pickup time and location helps DB Schenker and other logistics providers deliver better customer value, and create truly customer-centric delivery solutions.

We believe that electric autonomous delivery robots are the best way to offer a flexible and environmentally friendly delivery solution for the rapidly growing delivery needs of global and European markets. Last mile autonomous delivery is the future—and the future is already here.