23 September 2021 | 09:54
In the suburb of Milton Keynes, 50 miles north of London, auto-delivery has been a part of the landscape for more than three years and there are now 200 grocery deliveries.
With the pandemic, the demand for robots is high and they are indispensable: “Everyone needs contactless delivery,” summarizes Andrew Curtis, head of UK operations for the group that builds and operates these robots.
The company, which has quadrupled its shipments, today made 1,000 daily deliveries in the country and “demand is not diminishing” despite the end of the restrictions, Curtis congratulated himself.
Starship Technologies recently signed a new agreement with cooperative supermarket chain Co-op, one of its historic partners, to provide 300 new robots by year-end and triple deliveries.
Equipped with cameras and sensors, it’s 99% autonomous, according to the manufacturer, a company created in 2014 by the two founders Skype and based in Estonia and the United States.
In front of a supermarket branch in Milton Keynes, which first used the service in 2018, a dozen robots waited patiently.
An employee left the store and ordered one of them: a small bag filled with raspberries, yogurt, and a bouquet of flowers.
With the lid closed, the robot immediately slid onto the pavement. He turned and moved forward to cross the street, before backing away to let the car pass.
Once launched, the robot navigates itself effortlessly in a maze of pedestrian lanes that meander between red brick houses moving at a speed of 6 km/h. Deliver orders in less than an hour.
For Co-op, the challenge is also the environment. It’s about “reducing carbon emissions in the last kilometer of delivery”, avoiding “customers driving to the store, or taking their orders in vehicles that run on gasoline,” the company explained in a statement.
Automaton remains the property of Starship and orders are placed via an app developed by the company, which manages about a thousand robots, mainly in great Britain and in the United States, but also in Estonia, Germany and Denmark.
Starship isn’t the only company making delivery robots. In United States of Americawhere it was founded mainly on university campuses, struggling side by side with startups and logistics giants, such as amazon you FedExwho experiment with this type of robot in a confined area.
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