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The Quadrobot U1 is a four-wheel-drive, autonomous, all-electric vehicle designed for urban environments and neighborhoods to provide “last-mile” delivery service. The startup company Quadrobot inc. is based in the Detroit area and funded by investors in the United States and China.

 Initially the vans will be driver-operated as Quadrobot gathers data about how they’re used.  The U1 has a windshield, driver’s seat and controls.  An autonomous system will oversee the driver, braking if the U1 enters a turn too fast and steering if the driver makes a wrong turn.A human attendant will handle package pickup and delivery, but the U1 will be able to autonomously trail its operator down a street or around a parking lot while the person delivers multiple packages. Delivery will be easier to automate in China, where standardised lockers have replaced individual mailboxes.

Bill Visnic, editorial director of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Autonomous Vehicle Engineering magazine, explains in Strategic Finance Magazine: “Last mile solutions are particularly critical for urban areas, where traffic congestion makes this type of service increasingly time- and labor-intensive.”

Visnic adds, “Last-mile service is expected to be a viable early laboratory for automated vehicles because these trips will often be on defined and easily mapped routes. There’s also potential for increased efficiency from autonomous delivery and ride-hailing, which at least in theory might help to reduce congestion.” Increasing the utility of the vehicle will be enabled by the modular two-part construction of the U1. The same four-wheel chassis can have many other shell types mounted onto its bed, including passenger cabs, food wagons, mobile libraries, etc.”

The CEO of Quadrobot, Inc, Mike Tianye Wang, emphasises the importance of the flexible design of the U1: “Through Quadrobot’s reinventing of electric vehicles, its products become an important infrastructure for the smart city of the future, the carrier of human, material, information and capital flows, not just the traditional means of transportation.”

  It aims to trial another 30 delivering goods in downtown Detroit and suburban downtown including Birmingham and Royal Oak.