Guilhem Herail, Founder and CEO of Hermes Robotics, Inc., San Francisco, CA, has recently announced the company’s upcoming rollout of its driverless truck technology for commercial pavement sweeping trucks. The company has developed a kit to retrofit parking lot sweeping trucks that enables them to function driverless at low speeds. The Hermes kit can be retrofitted to most trucks to convert them into such low-speed self-driving vehicles.
With the new Hermes technology for parking lot sweeping, the driver can take the sweeper truck to the parking lot where the service is to be performed. Then, the driver can get out of the vehicle while it sweeps the parking lot and can use the time for blowing the lot corners, sidewalks, etc., or doing other tasks, all while the vehicle is driving itself on a predefined path.
The self-driving vehicle will follow the same path every time without cutting any corners. This system can help the industry standardize the cleaning process and achieve a higher level of service, and safety. The software can detect obstacles, so, for example, if a cat was walking in front of the vehicle, it would stop and wait for it to leave that area. The vehicle also stops for big branches or other objects.
Herail, the Hermes CEO, has been living in San Francisco for eight years. One morning, as he left his building, he noticed there was a lot of debris on the streets. He couldn’t stop thinking about this problem and his observation that the street was often dirty. He became inspired by the question of what could be done to improve that situation and the overall cleanliness of our cities.
He recognized that to have cleaner streets, the frequency of street cleanings would need to be increased by double or triple. He hypothesized that by automating the street cleaning process the frequency of cleanings could be doubled without increasing the cost, maybe even lowering the cost.
Through his extensive research, he confirmed that through automation it would be possible to increase the frequency of street cleanings or clean additional streets for less total cost. Guilhem emphasizes that this is great news for cities because it means they can increase their street-cleaning frequency without undertaking the cumbersome process involved in increasing their budgets.
He further reasons, “There’s so much debate around the idea of ‘Robots are going to take our jobs.’ But the discussion should instead be around, ‘What can robots do to make our lives healthier and happier?”
Herail, a French immigrant, recently became a US citizen and a father. He holds a Master’s Degree in Engineering from a prestigious university in Paris. His professional background is in tech development and management consulting for some of the world’s most recognized organizations.
The Hermes startup has been funded by such renowned investors as Y Combinator, UC Berkeley Skydeck, and Cathexis Ventures. Y Combinator is the most highly sought of all startup accelerators, with a global acceptance rate of only about 1% (including Airbnb and Doordash). The Cruise company, another startup funded by Y Combinator, is now owned by General Motors and is currently operating a driverless taxis robot service in San Francisco.
Herail and Hermes Co-Founder, Eleonore Jacquemet, a Stanford Alumnus, is also a robotics engineer. Together, the two have developed the technology and their company has automated a few sweeper trucks and has been operating them, serving business customers on a typical commercial sweeping routine as the researchers’ primary mode of experimentation to test the efficacy of the new technology.
The Hermes team has been using a NiteHawk Raptor (Isuzu), a Masco (Ram 1500), and a Tymco 600 (FL70), which have all been retrofitted to operate autonomously. The driverless system has proven to be deployable routinely without a safety driver. The developers have found that implementation of the technology on a new commercial pavement sweeping site takes only a few hours.
Guilhem explains why the team is launching the initial version of the product for parking lots instead of street sweeping operations, “We discovered that it will be faster to go to market with the technology developed for use in sweeping parking lots vs. streets, so we’re operating automated sweepers on parking lots as part of our product development process. We can now go onto new parking lots and create a 3D map of the area to be serviced within a few hours. Then, we can deploy the sweeper trucks, driverless, onto the parking lots.
At the current stage, we can save money, compared to using a sweeper truck operated by a person, and ensure consistently high-quality service. The average sweeping business using this technology can be expected to realize at least a 25% cost reduction.”
Hermes Robotics is also working with the US Department of Defense on several other use cases, the nature of which Herail said he is not at liberty to discuss at this time.
The immediate next step for Hermes Robotics is to connect with sweeping business operators who are ready to become users of the equipment for about 6 to 12 months of beta testing. That will mostly involve free trial periods of the driverless equipment for pavement sweeping company operators who want to work with the Hermes team to provide feedback on the efficiency and quality of the work performed using their new technology.
For beta test participants, the hardware fee will be waived, and the software fee will only begin after the beta test period. When the testing phase is completed, the group plans to prepare for mass distribution. At that point, there will be a fixed fee for the hardware of the kit and a subscription fee for the software.
The business model will feature a fully equipped installation team that goes to customers’ locations and retrofits the kit directly onto their existing sweeper trucks. Hermes has obtained insurance for operating sweeper trucks with the Hermes self-driving technology and is considering facilitating the acquisition of that coverage for other operators who want to have the kit installed on their trucks.
“One of the many things we’ve learned over time that has encouraged us to press forward with this endeavor is that the pavement sweeping industry is innovation-friendly. People in the business are always looking for ways to improve their methods of doing things and the quality of their services and to streamline their operations.
We’ve talked with many people in the industry who have shown great enthusiasm for what we’re doing. So, we’re really excited to go to the next step and start testing it with sweeping companies using it in their operations.”
For more information about Hermes Robotics, Inc., or contacts regarding the research and development of their new driverless truck technology, email email@example.com or visit http://hermes-robotics.com/.