Maneuvering the streets of Northlake nowadays is a driverless electric delivery vehicle powered by a combination of remote drivers and autonomous capabilities. The vehicle, which made its debut earlier this year, is the size of a golf cart and delivers packages for printing and shipping business Postnet Northlake. The company behind the robots is Clevon, an Estonian innovator with its U.S. headquarters at Hillwood’s AllianceTexas.
Clevon spun off from Cleveron, the first company to get permission for driverless last-mile delivery in Europe. It focuses on ground-based transportation and partners with AllianceTexas to pilot and develop its technology as part of Alliance’s Mobility Innovation Zone, which works with companies pushing the boundaries of transportation and logistics technology. After searching nationwide for an incubator, Clevon viewed Texas’ legislative framework and entrepreneurial mindset as the right fit. “AllianceTexas strives to change the status quo,” says Meelis Anton, Clevon’s U.S. chief operating officer. “The ecosystem and environment provide potential customers, with many large companies based here.”
The vehicles travel within a 10-mile radius of the Postnet hub and are limited to 20 miles per hour. The robots have three driver settings: fully autonomous, partially autonomous with some remote human support, and fully driven by a remote human operator. After proving its concept through pilot programs and a commercial launch with Postnet, Clevon wants to expand. The company sees an opportunity to provide reliable, safe, last-mile delivery for grocers, restaurants, and other retailers. “COVID showed that our supply chain is vulnerable,” says Ian Kinne, Hillwood’s director of logistics. “Clevon is willing to solve the last mile gap, which is hard to automate and where so much of the cost and risk exists in the supply chain.”
Anton sees Clevon’s advantages in the autonomous delivery space as a combination of size and energy efficiency. The electric vehicles have low carbon footprints but are large enough to deliver several sizable parcels. That said, he believes the market is big enough for many providers. “The need is so large, and there are so many use cases, it is about finding the best fit,” Anton says. “There is no silver bullet.”