It may not be the answer to the myriad of challenges facing logistics today, but it is certainly a practical solution for home delivery in old historical and city downtowns. This is especially true when we remember that most of these small city downtown areas typically have pedestrian areas with limited traffic access. This is true for European cities, particularly in Italy.
Narrow streets, cobblestones, and tram rails are only a few of the obstacles that couriers must deal with every day to deliver goods ordered online. The growth of e-commerce has resulted in an increase in the number of couriers and highlighted how difficult delivering a parcel can be in an urban area can be if the courier drives a van. Riding a bike may sometimes help, but it isn’t always optimal. Some couriers deliver packages by bicycle, but many consider riding in traffic to be too dangerous.

E-Novia, an Italian company specialized in innovation, has presented a potential solution to this problem. E-Novia defines itself as a “factory of enterprises,” harnessing intellectual property as its raw material to transform innovation into businesses while providing all the administrative and legal support necessary to launch a startup. One of these innovative startups is Your Autonomous Pony Express, or Yape.

“Thanks to its light weight, it moves completely autonomously and is able to face urban complexities such as sidewalks, rails, paved streets, pedestrians or bicycles. It’s equipped with sensors that detect human presence or other agents”, says Mr. Vincenzo Russi, e-Novia’s CEO. He is echoed by Simone Parenti, one of the young engineers who made Yape a reality. “The urban transport system is unable to keep up with the growth of e-commerce. We have therefore designed a very compact vehicle that moves on complicated infrastructure, adapting itself to the terrain. Its dimensions are 70x70x80 cm, weighing 15 kilos and capable of carrying up to 80 kilos. It can drive at up to 6 kilometers per hour on the sidewalk and 20 on a bike path. It has two parallel wheels mounted on a tilting system, which ensures maximum mobility as it can turn on itself. It’s truly optimal for our streets”.

The battery lasts for over 9 hours due to optimized energy usage. It is controlled remotely and it can take decisions on its own when necessary, the first of which is “to commit suicide” – that is, suspend activities in case of danger (the most likely being theft). It is equipped with an electric lock that opens either with a password or with an algorithm that identifies a face and fingerprint. In case of theft it simply remains closed, and, being controlled remotely, it will send an alarm signal.

Vincenzo Russi, E-Novia’s Ceo 

“The Yape project was born in December 2016”, says Mr Russi. “It is the result of a lot of work involving very high costs. Bringing fleets of cars from the autonomous movement means big players invest billions. The Yape company was founded in June 2017 and a few months later it attracted the attention of Eldor Corporation, which has invested 6 million euros”. The Italian international company has more than 2 thousand employees and 5 production centers and is specialized in the development and production process of injection systems for hybrid and electric vehicles.

On January 31st 2019, Yape made a first test delivery in Minami Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, in Japan, on behalf of Japan Post. The main postal operator of the country has chosen this Made in Italy robot to test the last mile delivery in the areas hit by the tsunami in March 2011. After an obstacle course in urban areas, Yape brought up a package of rice to an elderly couple. In recent months, Japan Post, thanks to the industrial partnership with Drone Future Aviation, chose Yape as a provider for delivery testing in December 2018.

Yape therefore represents the avant-garde of the self-guided vehicle for what concerns transport in city centers. It is the answer to the many growing challenges of the future, where the main concerns are speed, safety and green. There are those who fear that similar projects can vanish jobs and professional figures. And this might be true, but on the other hand, these technologies themselves also create new jobs and professional positions.