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Green Autonomous Delivery Robots

'The last mile' has always been the most difficult leg for the delivery industry. With an ever growing and rapidly evolving online shopping industry, it is imperative to make the last mile efficient. Intermode is developing the raspberry pi of robotic delivery vehicles that will make autonomous delivery available to all in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way. In our conversation with Arnold Kadiu, founder, and CEO of Intermode and Winner of the Circular Economy Challenge 2022 in Parts/Product category, we got interesting insights about their modular delivery vehicle.

"The goal of Intermode is to provide a universal robotic hardware that can be easily customized based on the customer delivery requirement. It is an area that I have been passionate about for a long time. I was inspired by the companies Refraction, Starship and Kiwibot which gave me a glimpse into the future. The first time I saw these robots, I knew that this is the future," began Arnold.

A safe, rugged, and customizable vehicle  

Having spent a significant amount of time working in the Ford Motors research team, Arnold used his expertise to create a modular autonomous delivery vehicle that catered to the delivery needs of a wider population. The vehicle has been built on a durable and heavy chassis that can easily navigate through bumpy and rough terrain.

"I did a lot of research about the delivery vehicle segment and concluded that companies are investing a lot of time and money in developing the complete vehicle. There was ample room to rectify this and build a universal vehicle which can be tailored according to the required application. With a base of the vehicle in place, we can customize the top body according to customer specifications," continued Arnold.

The autonomous delivery vehicle comes equipped with customizable sensors and safety features for safe and accurate delivery of contents. "The sensor is located at the top of the vehicle with a great vantage point, maximizing the field of vision of camera and lidars. These sensors can be easily customized according to the operational requirement," said Arnold.

"The challenge is to maximize usage of the vehicle during the day. The problem with the current generation of vehicles is the need for constant charging due to smaller batteries. Our goal is to eliminate the need for constant charging and battery swapping by reducing weight with the right materials," continued Arnold.

Circular business model

Intermode has implemented a ‘hardware as a service’ model. This means that they retain ownership of the delivery vehicle and simply lease it to the customer. This enables more control over the entire lifecycle of the delivery robot, thus making it easier to close the loop.  "We plan on using only one kind of plastic in our vehicle which can be dismantled at the end of life and recycled with ease. An important aspect of our business model is the ability to refurbish and recycle our material at the end of vehicle’s life," explained Arnold.

The increasing demand for online shopping translates into more delivery vehicles on the roads. Autonomous delivery vehicles are a good alternative for tackling the problem of congestion and reduction of CO2 emissions.

Modularity translates into competitive advantage

In the rapidly changing innovative landscape, there’s always room for improvement and advancement. Modularity of products is key to keep up with the evolving innovation landscape and strive for a competitive advantage with relatively less resources.

"Let’s compare the vehicle to a house. Different parts of the house need to be routinely renovated and refurbished from time to time. But the foundation of the house remains the same. We must be prepared to upgrade parts or completely modify the vehicle. To maintain this flexibility, we have kept a lot of room for modularity. Our competitive advantage stems from the ability to customize the top, while standardizing the chassis. This coupled with the hardware as a service model gives us control over entire lifecycle," commented Arnold.

Durability and Light weighting with carbon fiber

With so many potential applications like food delivery, surveillance in parking lots or yards, small deliveries on manufacturing shopfloors and support in caregiving facilities, it is imperative to make the vehicle durable. Intermode is looking to capitalize on the superior properties of carbon fiber reinforced plastics to ensure longevity, durability, and performance of their delivery vehicle.

"We would like to incorporate more carbon fiber, especially in the platform of the vehicle. The way we want to differentiate ourselves from the competition is not through cheapest price, but by providing the lowest lifetime cost. This engineering approach is only successful by incorporating the most durable advanced materials," concluded Arnold.