From WALL-E to POST-E: Robot helps deliver mail in German town

FILE PHOTO: A distribution centre of German postal and logistics group Deutsche Post DHL is pictured in Obertshausen, Germany June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

BERLIN (Reuters) - Postal workers in the western German town of Bad Hersfeld are getting a helping hand from a new colleague. A bright yellow, four-wheeled robot will carry mail and packages and follow them as they do their rounds.

The scheme is being tried by German postal and logistics company Deutsche Post DHL, which says the custom-built “PostBOT” can carry loads of up to 150 kilograms and can navigate around obstacles.

With the rise of online shopping, postal workers are having to handle ever-heavier packages. Deutsche Post staff already have access to electric bikes and trikes to help them with their deliveries.

The robot, which can carry up to six post trays, uses sensors to track the legs of the postal worker and can be used in all weather conditions, the company said.

“Day in and day out, our delivery staff performs outstanding but exhausting work. We’re constantly working on new solutions to allow our employees to handle this physically challenging work even as they continue to age,” Deutsche Post executive Juergen Gerdes said in a statement.

The “PostBOT” design is based on a robot from French company Effidence.

The trial in two delivery districts in Bad Hersfeld will run for six weeks, after which Deutsche Post will assess the project to see how further improvements can be made.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Mark Potter