On Tuesday, Vilnius became the first city in Europe to have a fleet of Autonomous Robot Carriers (ARCs) delivering groceries on its busy city centre roads. This innovation from delivery start-up LastMile in cooperation with Clevon has already rolled out to the traffic – three ARCs will deliver shopping without a driver and will help to reduce the cost of delivery services. Orders will be collected at the IKI store on Mindaugas Street and delivered directly to customers’ homes in the city centre area.

ARCs, which are delivering the goods, have different size and lockable compartments suitable for smaller and larger online grocery orders. In total, the fleet of robots can deliver 7 customer orders in a single run in the capital’s New Town and Old Town districts.

Neither congestion nor rain will interfere

The ARCs that have been delivering goods in Vilnius city centre have since Tuesday been developed by Clevon, an Estonian-based global autonomous delivery innovator. Last year, LastMile, together with Clevon carried out a pilot project in the Vilnius suburban district of Balsiai – this was the first deployment of driverless delivery robots in Lithuania. In three months, the robot travelled around 2,000 km and showed good performance.

“The trial paid off with an overall score of 4.8 out of 5, and shoppers were keen to try the innovation. Meanwhile, we have seen that we can deliver goods even more efficiently and flexibly, with less environmental impact, thanks to electric motors. After a successful test, we are taking the next step – for the first time in Europe, as many as three autonomous carriers will be part of the traffic in city centre streets. We believe that these robots will give us a significant advantage in the delivery sector, as customers will receive their goods quickly, even in the city center, and even during peak hours. Speed is becoming one of the most important criteria for shoppers when choosing a home delivery method – even 95% of our customers buy goods with delivery within a few hours,” says Tadas Norušaitis, CEO and co-founder of LastMile.

The pilot project also proved that robots can drive autonomously in a wide range of conditions – in the rain, on unpaved roads, in the snow, and in puddles after rain. 

According to Nijolė Kvietkauskaitė, CEO of IKI Lietuva, the e-commerce market in Lithuania is very vibrant, so it is crucial to always be one step ahead. 

“Today’s shopper expects an even more seamless shopping experience – and we are helping to meet this expectation with bold technological innovations such as autonomous stores and autonomous cars that deliver purchases quickly, safely and conveniently. We can promise our shoppers that we will continue to lead the way in Lithuania by introducing retail innovations that will create an even better consumer experience,” said N. Kvietkauskaitė.

Clevon’s CEO, Sander Sebastian Agur, highlighted that the partnership with REWE Group through Iki and LastMile is a major commercial achievement for Clevon: “Our team keeps proving that autonomous deliveries are here to stay, and we’re expanding our operations from single vehicles to fleets in Europe, the US, and in the Middle East region. Clevon was the first in Europe to get permission to operate driverless carriers on public roads in 2020. Now, we’re making history again by being the first to deploy a fleet of ARCs for commercial deliveries on Europe’s public roads, right here in Lithuania. This is just the beginning!”

Safety is a top priority

Starting on 27 June, the autonomous carriers will spend two months delivering shopping in a larger and much busier area than in the pilot project, driving through the streets of the capital’s city center.

To ensure maximum safety, the autonomous carriers will travel at a maximum speed of 25 km/h. They will be able to navigate the streets safely thanks to 360-degree cameras and special sensors. The carriers will be telesupervised by teleoperators who monitor the driving in real-time. 

On Tuesday, a public demo was carried out at the robotics launch event, where the autonomous carriers navigated a specially designed obstacle course without mistakes. The autonomous delivery will be completely free of charge. After ordering, customers will receive a text message telling them when the robot will arrive and a code that will unlock its door.

The LastMile platform currently has more than 300 000 registered users in Lithuania. They can choose products from more than 40 partner stores, with a total assortment of more than 30,000 products. 

Together with the startup LastMile, the retail chain Iki is part of the international Rewe Group, which operates in 21 European countries and has around 380,000 employees. Iki has been operating in Lithuania since 1992. With 237 stores across Lithuania, Iki is one of the largest retail chains. It is one of the country’s largest employers, employing around 5,500 people. The chain, together with Pixevia, has opened four stand-alone stores under the Iki brand in Vilnius.