Brussels transport company Ziegler wants to experiment with self-driving vans

Brussels transport company Ziegler wants to experiment with self-driving vans
Photo from Udelv/Ziegler

Ziegler, a transport and distribution company headquartered in Brussels, is planning to bring self-driving vans to the market.

Diane Govaerts (34), CEO of Ziegler since 2018, announced that the company would be expanding its fleet of vehicles and cargo bikes to include 10 self-driving electric vans, Bruzz reports.

Govaerts ordered them from the American company Udelv, which is pioneering autonomous electric delivery vehicles, as part of a plan to focus on urban distribution.

The vans drive without a driver, are fully electric and are monitored remotely. The cargo space of an Udelv is divided into compartments. Every customer can open a hatch with a QR code and take his parcel out of the van like a package-locker on wheels.

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Ziegler, in collaboration with an Udelv team, will begin testing the system in a closed area at its Welkenraedt site later this year.

This will be followed by a test phase on the public road, where a shadow car will follow from a distance and be able to intervene if needed.

Govaerts is currently in talks with various parties in Brussels about the legal framework, so that in time they can also hit the road there.

Brussels may take some convincing

It may be some time before that needed legislation is passed, according to Brussels MP Arnaud Verstraete (Green), who specialises in progressive mobility.

“I am not aware of any legislative initiative. Moreover, it will certainly have to be partly federal, as it concerns the highway code,” Verstraete pointed out.

A thorough debate will probably precede any new legislation, Verstraete thinks. It’s a complicated subject, both technically and emotionally, with many parties involved from the automotive industry to road users and associations to mayors.

“Innovation often brings resistance,” Verstraete said. “Although safety statistics are better for self-driving cars than for cars with a driver, people sometimes still object to it.”

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