PARIS (Reuters) – Four decades after R2-D2 had an important message from Princess Leia in the hit film “Star Wars”, a French supermarket chain plans for the use of robots inspired by the drum-shaped droid for the transport of food to customers in Paris.
A woman does her shopping at a store with an autonomous robot, shaped and inspired by Star Wars and R2D2, in a test for the delivery of messages by Franprix supermarket chain in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, France, on 17 April 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
The intensification of the race for automated deliveries with online retailers, such as Amazon, Casinos, Franprix chain to test the delivery of robots on the streets of the 13th arrondissement of Paris for a year.
In the French capital, where Amazon is the Amazon Prime Now express delivery in service since 2016, the quick and easy delivery of food has become a battleground for retailers.
“This droid will facilitate the life of the city dwellers. The last mile of delivery is crucial. This is what makes the relationship with customers,” Franprix Managing Director Jean-Pierre Mochet said of the service, which are free.
“We are going to test three droids in this store. If the test is successful, we can expand to other Franprix stores.”
Franprix and her partner, the French start-up TwinswHeel that developed the as yet unnamed robot, are conducting the test after the city authorities approved the southeast district for the experiment.
The electric vehicles are equipped with two large wheels, a suitcase of 30 or 40 litres and can be a distance of 25 km (15 miles).
In the first experiment, Franprix will make use of the robot in the store to carry purchases for customers – mainly people with limited mobility or the elderly – and the goods to their homes.
Using a ‘Follow Me’ button on the machine, the robot is associated with clients by means of visual recognition, so it can follow them in the store and on the street.
Initially, the robot will not go to the streets on his own, but will be followed by an operator, because Franprix has no permission to the device only on a trip yet.
That legislation needs to be amended, Mochet said, adding that he hoped it would happen soon.
In the future, Franprix and TwinswHeel hope customers the ability to purchase goods online or in the store, and the droid will get them to the buyers of houses and announce the arrival of the text.
The message will include a code, so that customers can unlock the robot’s suitcase-packing and unpacking of the goods.
Larger robots can also be used by store personnel to re-stock shelves.
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Franprix, which is 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) of revenue last year from its network of 900 stores, not only with his experiment.
Last year, in the USA giant supermarket Kroger launched an automated delivery trial in collaboration with unmanned delivery company Nuro. After the completion of the first stage in Scottsdale, Arizona, recently announced plans to transfer the program to Houston, Texas.
In Britain, Tesco and Co-op are testing a six-wheeled delivery robot in Milton Keynes with Starship Technologies.
Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein and James Davey; Editing by Luke Baker and Mark Potter