For four months, the luggage robot Robi was on the road in the car-free holiday village of Saas-Fee, transporting the luggage of holiday guests and locals. The project was a great success – both from a technical point of view and in terms of public acceptance.
It aroused great interest and made the holiday guests smile. PostBus, Saastal Tourismus AG and the municipality of Saas-Fee ended the pilot project as planned. After the presentation and the first trips in autumn 2021, Robi was deployed a second time from the beginning of June to the end of August 2022 and transported the luggage of holiday guests and locals. Those responsible in Saas-Fee were able to test different levels of automated driving and observe the reactions of customers and residents.
Fully automated driving
At the end of August, there was a trial run in fully automated mode over three days. Robi no longer followed the customer in the so-called “Follow me” mode with the help of additional technical devices but travelled autonomously and headed for one of several virtual stops that the customers selected before driving. A teleoperator only monitored the journey from afar and an attendant was only there to observe the journeys. For this test, those responsible had previously digitally recorded the Robi’s deployment route and created a virtual map of it.
A Swiss premiere
This was the first use of a remotely monitored, automated luggage robot in Switzerland. After the project with the SmartShuttles between 2016 and 2021 in Sion, PostBus was a pioneer in the field of automated driving for the second time. The Federal Roads Office (Astra) accompanied the entire pilot project and issued the necessary permits.
How did the population react?
The luggage robot Robi completed 450 journeys in Saas-Fee in the summer, covering 660 kilometres. There was no significant incident. In addition to exploring the technical possibilities, the project partners wanted to test the reaction of customers to the new offer. Here, too, the balance is very positive: the luggage robot was very well received by both the holiday guests who had travelled there and by the public and was used regularly.
“In Saas-Fee, Robi put a smile on many people’s faces. After a few weeks it was already part of the usual street scene,” said Matthias Supersaxo, Director of Saastal Tourismus AG, which implemented the project together with PostBus and the municipality of Saas-Fee. The project was financially supported by Innotour.
In Saas-Balen together with a Federal Councilor
The luggage robot made a special appearance on the eve of August 1. At the federal celebrations in Saas-Balen, Robi took part in the official parade, decorated with flowers and alongside Infrastructure Minister Simonetta Sommaruga. The Federal Councilor was given an explanation of how the luggage robot works in everyday use.
PostBus rented the luggage robot for the duration of the pilot project and it is now being returned to the manufacturer. Those responsible set about evaluating the results of the test. This includes both technical data and findings as well as analysis of user behaviour. The University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland (HES-SO) in Sierre provides scientific support for this evaluation. By the end of the year, PostBus will also develop a business model for the possible use of a luggage robot and will also be able to benefit from the valuable feedback from the Saas-Fee municipality and Saastal Tourismus AG.
Header Image: Robi in action in Saas-Fee. Credit: PostBus