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Greenwich to trial electric van and robot deliveries

Date: 28 January 2016   |   Author: Daniel Puddicombe

A London borough is set to trial 'smart' parking bays and electric vehicle deliveries as part of a European-wide green technology drive.

The capital is joining forces with cities across Europe in a 25 million euro scheme to "improve the lives of residents."

As part of the three-year Sharing Cities Lighthouse programme, 300 'smart' parking bays will be trialed in Greenwich in south London, while electric vans will be piloted for local deliveries.

A smart parking bay uses sensors to monitor the area to see whether the space is available for vehicles, saving the driver time and reducing traffic congestion. It is usually linked to a mobile application.

The Borough - which is currently also involved in the UK's autonomous vehicle trial project - will also use electric vans for local deliveries, and is planning to test autonomous electric deliveries next year.

Separately, Greenwich is currently trialing a fleet of self-driving electric robots, which are capable of carrying the equivalent of two small grocery bags.

The robot (see picture, above) is produced by start-up technology firm Starship Technologies. The company, run by Skype co-founder Ahti Heinla, claims the robots will be able to complete local deliveries within 5-30 minutes of a local hub or retail outlet for 10-15% less than the current cost of door-to-door deliveries.

Customers are able to choose from a range of delivery slots - meaning goods arrive at a time that suits them.

During delivery, shoppers can track the robot's location in real time through a mobile app and on arrival only the app holder is able to unlock the cargo.

Starship said that navigation and obstacle avoidance software allow the robots to drive autonomously, but they are also overseen by human operators who can step in at all times.