Self-driving shuttle bus delivers meals on EPFL campus

If you come across it – don’t panic! From today a self-driving Swiss Post robot will be out and about on the EPFL campus as part of a trial. The cute little yellow shuttle will deliver meals to EPFL students and lecturers. Swiss Post wants to find out more about this technology and to assess its potential in this trial.

It’s going to attract plenty of attention! From today what looks like a yellow Swiss Post mini shuttle bus will be roaming the EPFL campus. As part of the trial, the autonomous shuttle with a top speed is 6 km/h will travel in an area of around 2 km, stopping off at different places on the campus. For safety reasons an attendant will always accompany the vehicle.

Swiss Post’s mini shuttle delivers meals on demand
But how does this new mobile robot actually work? A selected group of lecturers and students will now be able to order meals online. The shuttle – which has 11 isothermal compartments that maintain the food’s temperature – will deliver the pre-ordered meals to different stops on the campus. Recipients will get an SMS message with a PIN code just before the shuttle arrives. All they then have to do is enter the code on the vehicle to open the compartment and get their food. The little shuttle can deliver up to ten meals a day and can also collect the used dishes on request.

 

Trial in collaboration with the EPFL up until year-end
From 12 October to the end of the year, Swiss Post wants to test how reliable this autonomous mini shuttle is and how interested students and lecturers are in using it on the EPFL campus. The shuttle allows orders to be delivered flexibly to recipients whenever and wherever they want.

This project will give Swiss Post the chance to learn more about running autonomous vehicles on a private site and to validate the technology. It’s convinced about what such vehicles can offer the logistics and mobility sectors. These delivery shuttles are available 24 hours a day, cost-effective and eco-friendly. A number of potential ideas are currently still be worked on and analysed. Swiss Post is trialling a number of autonomous transport types in various areas of logistics. A logistics specialist, it incorporates these technologies into its customers’ overall concepts and helps them to put efficient processes into practice and save time, allowing them to focus on their core business. Swiss Post is already successfully using autonomous technologies, such as drones in Zurich and Lugano and a delivery robot at Nyon hospital.

EPFL, meanwhile, is planning potential future research projects with autonomous technologies – it’s a win-win situation for both the institute and Swiss Post.

 

Operation of the self-driving vehicle

The vehicle navigates using 3D mapping and a GPS system. Once it has determined the route, it then travels completely autonomously. The sensors and cameras enable positioning to the nearest centimetre. If the vehicle encounters a situation it cannot resolve itself, it stops automatically. The vehicle is equipped with various safety features for monitoring the environment and distances.

 

Technical details

Model:                                     SLV11

Drive system:                            electric (battery)

Range per battery charge:           100 kilometres

Speed in the trial:                      6 km/h

Range in hours:                         around 8  hours

Unladen weight:                        371 kg

Maximum load:                         350 kg

Length x width x height:             2.69 x 1 x 1.87 metres

 

Number of compartments:         11

Compartment dimensions:          large compartments: 510 x 280 x 420 mm / small compartments:

125 x 245 x 420 mm

 

Turning radius:                          6.90 metres

Braking distance:                       around 1 metre at 10 km/h (depends on speed)

 

Battery

Charging time: zero hours          (battery can be replaced)

Capacity:                                  12.9 kw/h

Voltage:                                    72 volts

Maximum power:                      8 kilowatts

Safety/navigation systems

2 LiDAR systems, 2 cameras and 16 sensors

 

Project technology partners: Neolix, FixPosition

Mobility lab

At its mobility lab Swiss Post develops innovative solutions for mobility and logistics with partners. EPFL is also participating in the mobility lab. As part of this collaboration, Swiss Post and EPFL have identified joint areas of interest. The trial on the EPFL’s campus is the result of this collaboration and provides Swiss Post with the opportunity to quickly validate new solutions with test customers and to benefit from the researchers’ findings.