Swiss company Teleretail AG has developed a prototype for a delivery robot that would be capable of traveling distances up to 50 miles, expanding the potential for suburban and rural delivery applications, TechCrunch reports.
The company is planning to engage soon with pilot customers and municipal partners both in the U.S. and Switzerland to put its technology into action. Teleretail recently demonstrated its robot at the AUVSI Xponential event in Dallas, which focuses on drones and autonomous vehicles.
Teleretail is reportedly considering a subscription-based business model in which customers could subscribe for robot delivery or small businesses could subscribe to have deliveries made to their customers using Teleretail robots.
Our robotic friends are becoming so common in retail that that we had to expect we would start to see a few look-a-likes, and Teleretail’s prototype looks a bit like another delivery robot from Starship Technologies, at least in terms of its small stature and general design.
However, Teleretail is aiming especially for long-distance delivery applications, something that makers of other delivery robots or autonomous delivery vehicles don’t seem to be considering — at least none of them have played up the notion as much as Teleretail has. That appears to give Teleretail a portion of the market to develop that no one else is really paying attention to, although is is not at all clear how much of a market there could be for autonomous deliveries to somewhat distant or remote areas. It seems like there is a lot that could happen to this little guy after he embarks on a long road trip.
Teleretail has time to figure all of this out, as no one is anywhere near winning the race to exploit delivery robots, unmanned delivery vehicles and drones (drones especially could be a long way off.) That long runway is likely a good thing for Teleretail, as the company still appears to be figuring out its business model. The company is talking about a subscription model, but it isn't very clear who the subscriber group would be — customers, merchants or perhaps both?
The company also seems to have a good-hearted aim to provide robot-based delivery to small businesses, a broad market base that could prove to have great potential as small businesses seek the same delivery capabilities that giants like Wal-Mart and Amazon have in the interest of leveling the competitive playing field a bit. But, it could also be a slippery market to sell to and manage.
Teleretail also may need to look at some new funding options before it gets too deep into its big plans. The company so far is surviving on a European Space Agency grant, among other sources, but has yet to go looking for seed funding or venture capital investors. Still, as with many of the other retail-related robot developments, we're very interested in seeing where this long-distance robot rolls next.