Interview • 09.01.2023

Weekly groceries almost delivering themselves to your doorstep

LOXO presents Europe's first autonomous delivery vehicle for last mile delivery

Lack of staff and processes with optimization potential in retail? LOXO kills two birds with one stone and releases the brand new LOXO Alpha on the streets of Switzerland already at the beginning of this year: an innovative answer to the dynamically growing online market.

LOXO Alpha aims at nothing less than revolutionizing e-commerce and wants to counteract today's challenges such as low margins, high delivery costs or lack of drivers. We asked Lara Amini, co-founder of LOXO, what the next steps are for interested retailers after the market launch and how she counters general skepticism about autonomous vehicles.

Lara Amini together with her co-founders Amin Amini and Claudio Panizza at the...
Lara Amini (center) together with her co-founders Amin Amini (right) and Claudio Panizza (left) at the LOXO launch in December 2022. Lara Amini looks back on a long career as an engineer and has been a member of the LOXO management team since last year.
Source: LOXO AG

Lara, LOXO Alpha will be launched in spring 2023 and is ready for immediate use. What about the software – can retailers start processing orders right away?

LOXO has developed a backend API to guarantee simple and straightforward integration with the customer's front end, for example an online store. Our software takes over the fleet management, i.e. the intelligent and efficient route calculation of the individual orders. This means that it determines which customers have to be supplied when and where in combination. The software also assigns the individual orders to the correct compartments in the vehicle and notifies the customers when the vehicle arrives. A personalized code can then be used to retrieve the respective order from the vehicle.

What about the other end – is there a special app for customers or do retailers integrate LOXO into their own apps?

Customers use their retailer's app as before but can now decide on more flexible delivery models. For example, they can now schedule a delivery for a specific time of day.

How does LOXO differentiate itself from the food delivery services that have emerged in recent years, which mainly deliver by bicycle?

A bike courier can deliver 1 to 2 orders, but at scale this is no longer possible. Simply put, bike couriers lack scalability. We are already talking about driver shortages and excessive operational costs for delivery vehicles. For bicycles, where only single deliveries are possible, I see a problem in the economic viability and expandability of this solution. Nevertheless, I think there is still a great need for bicycle couriers, especially for food delivery. 

LOXO will revolutionize the food delivery service by enabling scalability, flexibility and profitability. In addition, LOXO, or autonomous vehicles in general, will make the possibility of "shared delivery" a reality: customers will be able to share delivery and thus save CO2 together. Furthermore, shared delivery is also something that appeals to retailers: if they use shared delivery media, they save further costs and vast amounts of CO2.

Equipped with a touchscreen, operation is intuitive and quick for customers....
Equipped with a touchscreen, operation is intuitive and quick for customers. The removal of the ordered goods from the correct compartment is thus contactless and particularly convenient.
Source: LOXO AG

Today, there are little to no autonomous vehicles on the public roads. Many have doubts about the technology and its safety. How does LOXO ensure reliable driving?

Probably the word "autonomous" is what triggers fears and the better expression would have to be "unmanned". Doubts and fears about new technologies have always existed and always will. Autonomous vehicles are one of those new technologies, and it is just beginning to make its way into our society. We still see few on public roads, which is not to say that the technology is not ready. But the necessary legal foundations must be developed and implemented step by step.

Safety is self-evident – At LOXO, we have developed an operations center for this in addition to automation (deblocking and monitoring), we call it "human in the loop". Humans are not completely replaced in autonomous vehicles either, but used differently, in such a way that safety and reliability are even improved and at the same time a healthy market development can take place without reducing jobs.

How would you respond to someone who is concerned about changing how people interact and engage with each other on the street or in the cityscape?

LOXO Alpha drives at a maximum speed of 30 km/h (18.6 mph), blending in with the average city speed. Furthermore, an autonomous vehicle detects surprising changes in the road scene in a few milliseconds and 360° around the vehicle without blind spots. If necessary, it initiates a stop or even an emergency stop. 

Quite apart from technological and economic arguments, however, I would recommend skeptics to consider how they personally envision the city of the future and whether they don't also want less traffic in city centers and more time for family and friends. If so, an autonomous delivery vehicle that can deliver sustainably, on-demand, and with a human-in-the-loop is certainly a solution. I am convinced that autonomous vehicles such as LOXO Alpha will prove their advantages and safety over time, which will also ease concerns.

Interview: Nastassja Lotz

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