Autonomous delivery pilot launched in Helsinki

Autonomous delivery pilot launched in Helsinki

A pilot project on new urban logistics has begun in the Ruoholahti district of Helsinki. Last week, a local distribution centre opened at the Ruoholahti Shopping Centre. There, anyone can send or pick up a package at the DHL Express service point and all locals can have their packages delivered by a cargo bike or a sympathetic little robot!

The idea of the distribution centre is to reduce the number of noisy motor vehicles in central Helsinki. The deliveries of the project partner DB Schenker are delivered to the local distribution centre in large vans. In the centre, the packages are split among A2B and DB Schenker cargo bikes, electric delivery vans and LMAD autonomous delivery robots. One of the project partners is Rolan, a provider of both logistics and smart mobility services. In the local distribution centre, their task is to repair and charge shared electric bicycles and scooters.

“Our surveys have shown that Helsinki residents are hoping for flexible service, eco-friendly deliveries and customer service points. We are aiming to meet these needs with the local distribution centre,” says Project Manager Matias Oikari from Forum Virium Helsinki, the organisation coordinating the pilot.

The pilot is testing how a local distribution centre that combines various services can function as a part of the logistics chain in a dense urban environment and how the centre can facilitate eco-friendlier delivery methods for urban deliveries, especially in the direction of central Helsinki.

“The pilot’s operating model does not only make package deliveries more efficient and reduce unnecessary driving, but it also reduces emissions by replacing conventional vans with eco-friendlier alternatives. As the non-profit innovation company of the City of Helsinki, we want to promote cooperation between various operators to achieve emissions reductions,” Oikari states.

The talking Helsinki Robot (HeRo), that was tested in the Ruoholahti and Jätkäsaari districts in December 2023, will now be joined by the smaller NeRo (No emissions Robot). The autonomous robots are like mobile parcel lockers. With the robots’ help, those living near the distribution centre can have their packages delivered close to home throughout the summer.

What makes Helsinki so unique in last-mile logistics?

Facilitating the collaboration between various stakeholders is a vital part of managing the local distribution centre. As the City of Helsinki’s non-profit innovation company, Forum Virium Helsinki acts as a neutral link ensuring that every stakeholder will share their data securely and get the equal benefits of the EU Horizon funded premises. Forum Virium will not only provide an opportunity for companies to try out novel services, but also increases the quality of service for residents and most importantly contribute to the successful implementation of the city strategy of Helsinki and its carbon neutrality targets.

Bringing in the major logistics service providers under the same premises is challenging due to international bureaucracy, company specific requirements, and privacy concerns, but after tackling all of these issues, Forum Virium’s work will enable resource efficiency and contribute to decarbonisation of the urban logistics in multiple aspects like consolidation of parcels and decreasing the number of vans in the city centre.

Based on the resident survey done in collaboration with the students from Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, it became evident that the majority of the residents in Helsinki are curious about novel innovations, such as autonomous delivery vehicles, and willing to try them out at least once. Approximately 83% of the respondents have used parcel locker systems to pick up their parcels and more than half of them are extremely satisfied with the service.

The latest autonomous delivery vehicles are providing the same service but with another layer of convenience when the customer can choose the one hour time slot and location based on their own preferences. That’s why the last-mile logistics innovations are expected to be vastly popular in Helsinki.

The pilot coordinated by the City of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki is a part of the EU DISCO project that aims to develop and test new solutions for the flexible use of underutilised urban space to address the challenges of urban logistics. The pilot also involved the EU URBANE project for last-mile solutions and the partner companies A2B, DB Schenker, DHL Express, LMAD (Last-mile Autonomous Delivery) and Rolan.

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