Deutsche Post is testing a robot - the PostBOT - that will accompany posties on their delivery routes and carry their mail items. The robot can carry up to six post trays, and a total load of up to 150kg.
The robot uses some sort of black magic to track the postie's legs, automatically following the postie throughout the entire route. It can navigate around obstacles or stop when needed.
The PostBOT can be used in all weather conditions.
So, is this just another drone, or could this be a practical implementation of robot technology?
Six-week trial in Germany
Residents of two delivery districts in the city of Bad Hersfeld will soon see the self-propelled electric PostBOT accompanying the mail carrier.
Bad Hersfeld is a city without any steps, which makes it an ideal testing ground for the new robot.
Ok, I actually have no idea about the quantity or size of the steps a Deutsche Post postie might encounter in Bad Hersfeld. But steps are a bit of a problem for wheeled robots.
The PostBOT was custom-built, based on a robot from the French company Effidence.
Last year, Effidence won the DHL Robotics Challenge. The prize was €10,000 and the opportunity to test and develop the prototype further jointly with DHL.
The PostBOT was developed with input from Deutsche Post delivery staff to ensure that it met their specific needs for transporting letters and packages.
What might we learn from the trial?
Similar robots are already in use, but in indoor environments such as warehouses and sorting centres. The PostBOT is being trialled outdoors, where it will have to cope with the elements, dogs (and dog poo), human beings, and traffic... not to mention steps!
Its size, and the fact that the robot is accompanied by a postie, minimise the possibility of theft.
Is there an increased risk of injury to the public? Or is the risk to the public reduced?
Will the PostBOT be a cost-effective replacement for drop boxes? Could the idea be extended so that PostBOTs can be despatched to meet posties mid-route?
Will the reduced carrying load for posties result in better working conditions?
More importantly... could the PostBOT be trained to deal with aggressive dogs?
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