A self-driving grocery delivery vehicle runs on the road during a demonstration in Baerum, Norway, on Nov. 11, 2016. (Xinhua/Dragana Paulsen)
by Dragana Paulsen
OSLO, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- "It looks like a toy car!" "It's a bit slow though..." "Could we get on this one instead of the school bus?"
Excited school kids gathered on Friday morning to see a new self-driving vehicle with a notice "I am full of food from the internet" at the small square near the Storoya school in Baerum, a municipality just west of Olso.
It was Kolonial.no, Norway's biggest online grocery store, in cooperation with Acando, an IT consulting company, that decided to test new technological possibilities in grocery delivery and become the world's first self-driving grocery store.
Karl Munthe-Kaas, co-founder and chief executive officer of Kolonial.no, said at a press conference that the idea is to use the already existing automatic and self-driving functions to deliver groceries in a simpler and cheaper way.
The vehicles that do not drive more than 40 km per hour are tested safe and can stop where they are told to do that, he said.
"Our customers will simply still be able to get their food delivered at their door step or pick it up at one of our around 30 pick-up points. Only this time they will be able to track via online application where the autonomous vehicle is at that moment and decide when and where they would like to get their groceries," Munthe-Kaas told Xinhua.
At the gathering where Ketil Solvik-Olsen, Norway's minister of transport and communications, was also present, Munthe-Kaas called on the government to pass new regulations to facilitate the new innovations.
"What we need now are the regulations that will approve this project. We have the technology. We are ready and also positive that Norway, as a digital and advanced country, will soon become the first in the world that uses autonomous grocery delivery," Munthe-Kaas said.
Solvik-Olsen fully supported the project, calling it "revolutionary, driven by many smart people."
The minister said he would introduce a bill for approving such projects next spring, expecting the government's decision in summer next year.
Solvik-Olsen expressed the necessity for Norway to open for the new technology and mentioned that similar projects, involving self-driving busses, have already been tested at several places with a big success.
Marianne Sorby Rogeberg, marketing manager of Acando Norway, told Xinhua that the average price of each vehicle would be around 2 million Norwegian kroner (240,000 U.S. dollars).
According to Lisbeth Hammer Krog, mayor of Baerum, the project with the self-driving vehicles might also involve additional functions, such as the collection of glass and metal for recycling. This was also confirmed by chief operating officer of Kolonial.no, Jon Kare Stene.
"Our future plan is both to expand the functionality of the vehicle and to enter into dialogue with other areas' representatives that might be interested into cooperation," he told Xinhua, adding that they would probably use around 30 vehicles in the beginning and 100 or more during the course of the first operating year.
Atle Guttormsen, professor of economics at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), talked about his own perspective as a father of four children and how the new project would "revolutionize families."
"If we take into consideration the perspective of families with several growing children, it is clear we talk about lots of food. It will be not only easier to order groceries online and get them automatically delivered, it will also halve the food expenses in our household," he said.
"That is revolutionary and in addition one can avoid caring 75 kg of food in plastic bags for four big boys at home, for example, or struggle while driving here and there, getting anxious to find a parking place. I support his project and will follow it up closely," Guttormsen said.
Silvija Seres, president of the Norwegian Polytechnic Society, talked about innovation possibilities in Norway and the need to socialize the fast-growing technology.
She voiced her support for the project of Kolonial.no and said it was very exciting and important to have such companies that are "bold and bright" and experiment with new projects and also governments that support and regulate this.
She emphasized the broad resources of Kolonial.no and how they contribute to the future of technology in Norway.
"They do not speak only about collecting the goods from the storage and delivering them at the pick-up points. They talk about big data, experiments with drones, being tool for both customers and purchasers," Seres said.
She also mentioned Norwegian hi-tech leading services in process industry, welfare and public sector.
"Since we already have had big success with oil services before, with these hi-tech resources we have today, it is also possible that our next step is in welfare, food industry or modern family lives," Seres concluded.
"Obstacle detected," showed the screen in the autonomous vehicle in front of Storoya school. People needed to move away for this modern wheeler to start turning again.
The programming of stops is, according to the organizers, in process, but it was a successful ride from the temporary stop "School" to the next stop "Bikes," a bike parking a few minutes away.