November 6, 2023
Too busy to pop out to your nearest Starbucks or Tim Hortons for a coffee? No problem.
A new self-driving coffee machine that comes to you could be the solution.
Developed by Italian company Rhea Vendors Group and China’s Neolix, the unmanned Barista-On-Demand vehicle has just been unveiled at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) trade exhibition in Shanghai.
Rhea, headquartered in Varese, is one of the world’s longest-established vending machine manufacturers, while Beijing-based Neolix has been developing robo-delivery tech since 2016.
Together, it appears they have come up with an answer to a problem that nobody, until now, knew existed – although their innovation could prove to be extremely lucrative, with Chinese coffee consumption said to be increasing at a rate of more than 30% a year.
According to the pair, Barista-On-Demand “transforms the typical coffee consumption from a go-to-shop activity into shop-come-to customers” mirroring the sort of unmanned delivery service we have seen previously with pizzas and even room service in hotels.
While it sounds like a gimmick, the self-driving coffee machine has credible tech behind it. Neolix describes itself as “the world’s leading autonomous vehicle maker that specializes in robo-delivery,” having deployed more than 1,000 vehicles in 12 countries, and partnered with global brands such as KFC and FedEx. Earlier this year, it was one of eight companies granted a license to commence unmanned operations with its delivery vehicles in Shanghai.
Barisa-On-Demand allows users to order their coffee via an app, which summons the vehicle to their location. Then it’s simply a case of specifying a brew to personal taste, via the on-board Rhea BL Doppio & Cup coffee machine.
Anyone worried about sustainability concerns will be reassured by the fact that there is no needless waste of fuel, with the vehicle powered by renewable energy sources.
“This project offers a new perspective on smart mobility in new retail,” said Yu Enyuan, founder and CEO of Neolix Technologies. “Having been at the forefront of global mobility solutions, our aim isn’t merely to enhance mobility but also empower traditional sectors, ensuring, for example, that coffee lovers receive a frictionless experience on the go.”
Although no timeline for a commercial launch has yet been revealed, it seems that China will be the first market to benefit, with Andrea Pozzolini, CEO of Rhea, saying: “We’ll initiate this groundbreaking venture in its birthplace,” before rolling it out to the “cities of the future.”
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