AxleHire, a last-mile logistics provider, offers same-day or next-day delivery via a network that includes couriers, gig economy and traditional carriers. It has quietly been testing automated repositioning startup Tortoises remote-controlled delivery robots in Los Angeles, and compact container delivery service URB–Es ebike container delivery in New York City. It announced on Thursday that it plans to scale up the two different zero-emissions pilot programs in the United States over the next twelve months.
AxleHire is a well-known company for delivering parcels and meal kits to restaurants like Blue Apron or HelloFresh. It plans to transport over 100 Tortoise robots throughout the country. URB-Es summer deployment in NYC saw 10 vehicles transporting 100 containers per week. It will now deploy 50 URBE vehicles, moving 300-500 containers per week in NYC and San Francisco. Although the company raised $20 million in April, it didn't say which cities it would enter with these new programs. However, Tortoise, URB-E and Chicago said that we can look at the existing cities AxleHire operates in: Chicago and Dallas, Houston.
AxleHires' philosophy is to create delivery hubs near dense metropolitan areas. This makes it easier to travel and reduces the total mileage. AxleHires mission is to provide last-mile delivery that is more sustainable and less expensive. According to the company, its partnerships with these startups have helped reduce its carbon emissions by 95%. AxleHire provides an example of a company testing two different, greener and more tech-focused methods of transporting goods. This will likely be a useful case study for other logistics providers in the last mile.
AxleHire, URB-E and others have been working together in New York to create a microcontainer delivery network between Brooklyn and Manhattan. URB-E's bikes can be used by their vehicles, which can carry over 800 pounds. AxleHire claims that its pilot with URB–E resulted a six-fold reduction in traffic, and a model that's three times more affordable than EV delivery vans. This is largely due to the elimination of parking tickets.
AxleHire placed Tortoise electric, 4-mph remote-piloted carts that carried up to 120 lbs of goods in Los Angeles' delivery microhubs. These little robots with smiley faces and friendly faces made about 15 deliveries per day within three miles. A large truck was loaded with multiple packages and a Tortoise robotic, and AxleHire would drive it into dense residential areas. The truck would act as a mobile delivery hub and deliver parcels to the bot.
It's the hive model. This is where they augment the existing van or truck to make it possible for them to deliver as many deliveries as they can in two hours, Dmitry Shevelenko (co-founder of Tortoise) told TechCrunch. Communication is being established with the subject to confirm that they will be at home to receive it. If they are, they will be notified that robots are on their way in about 10 minutes. The customer will then come out to collect it from the robots.
According to Shevelenko, the Tortoise bots can travel on sidewalks and bike lanes and have swappable batteries that can be plugged in and charged. They can travel approximately 10 to 15 miles on a single charge.
Tortoises bots can be operated remotely for the next year. However, remote positioning is not Tortoises ultimate goal. Tortoise's goal is autonomy. This partnership, along with shared escooter operators such as Spin, allows Tortoise to not only get into markets without regulation for self-driving cars but also to quickly map the market. 4G connectivity is the only infrastructure that bots require.
Shevelenko said that robots can be shipped to new locations and have human oversight for every step of the journey. We don't need perfect routing. We are filling in the maps over time and that gives us big data advantages.
Tortoise will slowly collect routing data over the next year to give its system more information and help it learn how to create the best route for low-speed, lightweight delivery vehicles. Shevelenko stated that Tortoise's long-term vision is to put its tech on all light electric vehicles, including delivery robots, scooters, cleaning robots, security robots, and construction robots. Given the huge demand on the COVID market, delivery is a great place for a start.
Shevelenko stated that the more Tortoise eyes we have on our vehicles, the more data we are collecting. This means that we can do trips with greater autonomy and lower cost.
Tortoise has the added advantage of allowing maximum data collection and remote controlled delivery robots over the next 12 months. This gives Tortoise the opportunity to get the community used the new tech.
Shevelenko stated that the best way to get into a community is to first reassure residents that it is safe and to make them feel comfortable. It will become a part of everyday life. Then, gradually, more autonomy can be added. But, it is not necessary to do so immediately. Everyone claims they have autonomy, but in reality they don't. They always have a backup plan, such as safety drivers or remote monitors. They trust their economy system but nobody really believes it, so they are able to lean into that and not try to do anything that is impossible.