In its native Korea, the Hyundai company has worked on a concept to support businesses in a context of labor shortages that are rampant everywhere. Autonomous fully electric robots come to the rescue, time to do a delivery job that will relieve many companies.
The automaker recently launched two pilot delivery service programs that use the vehicles to deliver goods to two test locations, a hotel and a residential and commercial complex, both located outside Seoul. In terms of technology, this is a great inspiration for the Korean autonomous cars of tomorrow.
At first glance, Star Wars enthusiasts will all have the same impression when they see Hyundai’s robot, namely that it looks suspiciously like R2-D2, only bigger.
In order to be convenient for delivery, the Korean manufacturer has equipped it with a storage compartment at the level of the “abdomen”, let’s say. It is based on a modular PnD (Plug and Drive) platform which allows it to pivot on a single wheel and in all directions.
So the robot moves using this wheel, smart steering, braking system, electric drive and suspension. To complete the portrait, it is equipped with a digital screen where information intended for customers who have ordered can scroll (it can even be read to them with an adapted voice). Finally, the machine is equipped with sensors and a camera that fully ensure its autonomy. Equipped in this way, our robot is ready to go.
For the sake of Hyundai’s testing, the robot was used to provide room service at Rolling Hills Hotel, a 4-star property. Every evening, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., hotel guests can call on him for food and drink delivery. People place their order using an app, then use the popular Kakao Talk messenger (free and super popular across Korea) to track their order’s journey in real time.
Even better, the robot avoids all obstacles in its path and knows how to determine the number of people going up in an elevator. He can even assess if it is too much! If the cabin is crowded, he will take the next elevator.
Finally, when he arrives at the room, he waits for the door to be opened for him and, as soon as the customer appears in front of him, he in turn opens his empty tray to deliver the order.
Hyundai has also done another test, this time in a residential and commercial building in Seoul, in collaboration with one of Korea’s largest online food delivery companies.
For the moment, we are at the testing stage, but it is already planned that we will manufacture other delivery robots, that we will extend their services and their hours of availability and that we expand their sphere of activity to reach large commercial areas, where delivery services are useful to get closer to customers.
When we imagine it all, with their autonomous driving and their ability to avoid obstacles, we can find a slightly comical side to these delivery men who shop for us. But if these robots can reduce delivery times, free up time in our overloaded schedules while being safe and, moreover, if they can thus offer assistance to both consumers and entrepreneurs, it’s hard not to appreciate it and see a great use for many of us.
You will have understood that for the Hyundai company, the two robots are only precursors, pioneers of a broader strategy on the part of the car manufacturer which aims to win the market for autonomous technology, an area which is currently developing in high speed.
The company has already made significant investments in the development of self-driving cars and robots. Following this path, its delivery service becomes an opportunity to test and refine its technology in a real environment.
At the end of the day, it is still interesting to see car manufacturers developing new utilitarian transport instruments and taking inspiration from them for the autonomous cars of tomorrow. Resolutely, the automotive sector is increasingly presenting itself as a flagship industry in technological development.