Starship Technologies, a start-up involved in the development of “friendly” sidewalk robots,  announced Wednesday its partnership with Mercedes-Benz Vans to develop Robovan,  which it called “the world’s first transportation system integrating specially-adapted vans with autonomous delivery robots to allow efficient delivery of goods in neighborhoods.”

The semi-autonomous transportation system will see Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans act as “motherships,” hosting eight delivery robots. The vans will drive through neighborhoods, stopping in designated locations, based on delivery density and demand, to drop off and pick up robots to complete customer deliveries.

Instead of completing door-to-door delivery, the vans will drive to pre-agreed locations to load and unload goods and then dispatch the robots in the final step for on-demand delivery. Upon making the customer delivery, the robots will autonomously find their way back to the van for reloading.

The robots will be loaded with their goods in the Robovan using a racking system that enables 400 packages to be delivered every 9 hour shift, compared to 180 packages using previously available methods, an increase of over 120%, according to Starship.

“A typical van delivery today involves driving to a delivery area, and then spending an entire day on door-to-door deliveries. By leaving the door-to- door part to delivery robots the van drivers’ productivity will significantly rise while reducing congestion on the streets and CO2 emissions” said Allan Martinson, Starship’s Chief Operating Officer.

“At Mercedes-Benz Vans we are constantly seeking for innovations to improve the efficiency for our customers and actively supporting their businesses. In Starship we found an innovative and creative partner to dramatically improve the way of transportation for the last mile”, said Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.

“We see a huge potential for robotic delivery systems in the future and by combining our vans and the robots – we call it the mothership concept. With this we are able to increase the efficiency of delivery by an order of magnitude. Working together is like having best of both worlds – the power of a leading van manufacturer combined with the agility and spirit of a startup,” he added.