27. March 2024 | Press releases:

Autonomous rendezvous for effective last-mile parcel delivery Potential of co-operating vehicles presented at Braunschweig Research Airport

On 22 March 2024, a European research consortium presented an innovative logistics system for a more sustainable last mile at the Niedersachsen Automotive Research Centre (NFF) at Technische Universität Braunschweig. The scientists demonstrated a complete solution for a fully autonomous logistics concept consisting of two autonomous forklift and delivery vehicles in real road traffic on the Hermann-Blenk-Straße at the Braunschweig Research Airport.

The demonstration is the main result of the “LogiSmile – Last-mile logistics for autonomous goods delivery” project, which aims to develop an urban logistics system for the distribution and delivery of parcels. As part of the project, 13 European organisations and institutions have developed two urban delivery robots and tested them in various scenarios to assess their feasibility and efficiency in the context of urban logistics. “ONA” is an autonomous robot that can move both in pedestrian areas and on the road, and is designed to deliver parcels over the last mile. “RAION” is an innovative vehicle concept developed at the Institute of Automotive Engineering at TU Braunschweig. It is used in the project as an automated logistics vehicle and has the task of acting as a mobile logistics centre. The project was co-funded by EIT Urban Mobility, an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, with a total of 1,356,610 euros.

Professor Roman Henze, member of the board of directors and head of the “Automated and Connected Driving” research area at the NFF: “Demonstrations such as LogiSmile clearly illustrate our vision of developing the Braunschweig Research Airport into a centre for mobility. Here, teaching, research and transfer to application are to take place. We have the support not only of the university and the city of Braunschweig, but also of the state of Niedersachsen and the federal government to realise a Future Mobility Hub in the immediate vicinity of the NFF.”

Last-mile logistics are becoming more frequent and more fragmented, especially with the exponential growth of e-commerce. New solutions and technologies in urban logistics are needed, as the volume of courier express parcels (CEP) is growing rapidly at up to 11 per cent per year.

Dr Thorsten Kornblum, mayor of the city of Braunschweig: “Like private and public transport, delivery traffic is a major challenge for all European cities, not least for environmental reasons. What makes Braunschweig so ideal for testing innovative projects like LogiSmile is its distinctive profile as a city of science and research. In particular, with the mobility cluster at the research airport, Braunschweig offers development and testing conditions that few other cities, even on a European level, can offer”.

The “LogiSmile” project therefore tested new business models and innovative mobility technologies and developed a sustainable mobility solution with two autonomous, driverless vehicles. “The main innovation of the project is the cooperation between the two autonomous robots, coordinated by a central back-end and tested in a real environment. We can see that this has the potential to significantly reduce the operating costs of logistics over the last mile,” says Torben Hegerhorst, project manager and research associate at the Institute of Automotive Engineering at TU Braunschweig. A logistics company from the global courier express parcel (CEP) market was also involved in the pilot project to provide a business-oriented demonstration.

Efficient, reliable and sustainable delivery solution for the logistics of the future

The aim of the application is to test new business models and innovative mobility technologies in practice in order to reduce the negative impact of logistics operations in urban centres on traffic, safety and the environment. A total of thirteen organisations and institutions from Germany, Spain, France and Poland have developed an autonomous driving system consisting of two urban delivery robots. “The LogiSmile consortium is made up of different European partners from different sectors, bringing together academic knowledge from universities and research centres, industrial expertise and government support to make the project a success,” says Albert Baldó i Canut, Senior Project Manager at the Spanish Research Mobility Hub CARNET, which led the European collaborative project.

The robotic solution consists of three key building blocks that use different hardware and software components, including multiple redundant radar, lidar and camera systems: The electric street robot called “ONA” is able to move autonomously in pedestrian areas and on the road, and is responsible for delivering parcels over the last mile.

RAION is an automated logistics vehicle that acts as a mobile logistics centre. In order to provide end-to-end delivery for urban areas and different potential business models, a control centre has been developed that monitors RAION’s driving status and can intervene if necessary, as well as handling the communication between RAION and the back-end for mission planning.

Inter-university contributions from NFF members

The Niedersachsen Automotive Research Centre (NFF) at TU Braunschweig is involved in the European research project with three institutes. The Institute of Automotive Engineering at TU Braunschweig is responsible for the development of the innovative RAION vehicle concept and the autonomous driving function implemented in it. The Institute of Design Engineering at TU Braunschweig is involved in the use case investigations and provides support in the area of application-related structural elements of the vehicle. In addition, the Institute for Software and Systems Engineering at TU Clausthal provides a control centre that monitors the driving status of RAION and can intervene if necessary. It also takes care of the communication between the autonomous logistics vehicle and the back-end, which is responsible for mission planning.

Project data:

The “LogiSmile” project was co-funded by the EIT Urban Mobility, an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, with a sum of 1,356,610 euros for about two years. In addition to the Niedersachsen Automotive Research Centre (NFF) and Braunschweig Zukunft GmbH, the European consortium consists of CARNET (project management), Barcelona Metropolitan Region, Citylogin, Cluster Catalonia Logistics, Delivery Couple, Esplugues de Llobregat City Council, Last Mile Autonomous Delivery LMAD, NMS Hamburg, PTV GROUP, Spanish General Directorate for Transport, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Vaive Logistics and the Volkswagen Group.