Delivery drivers in the UK, Germany, and Switzerland are getting a makeover. London-based Starship Technologies is building a fleet of autonomous robots designed to deliver goods locally.
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Initial partners—European food delivery company Just Eat, German parcel delivery service Hermes, German retailer Metro Group, and London food delivery start-up Pronto—will test roaming robots in five cities.
"These partners we're working with are at the top of their game—passionate, driven and quick to embrace new technology, making them the perfect choice for us to truly demonstrate our robotic delivery solution," Starship COO Allan Martinson said in a statement.
Capable of transmitting packages, groceries, and food orders to folks in a two- to three-mile radius, the autonomous androids are monitored by humans, who can take control at any time.
Launched in 2014 by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, Starship's robots were introduced to European and American cities late last year. The self-driving machines have already traveled close to 5,000 miles and met more than 40,000 people—without a single accident, the company boasted.
The friendly appliance—which looks like a high-tech cooler on six wheels—can detect pedestrians, steer clear of bicyclists, and remains securely closed until reaching its destination.
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"Nobody likes to spend hours waiting for the courier just to have a parcel delivered," said Frank Rausch, CEO of Hermes Germany. "Therefore, individually scheduled delivery services will become increasingly important within the coming years."
"We hope to see the streets lined with thousands of these robots bringing people their … meal on-demand and providing an even more cost-effective, efficient and environmentally friendly delivery solution for our customers," Pronto CEO James Roy Poulter added.
Test programs will first run in London, Düsseldorf, Bern, and another German city, before moving to several other European and American locations.
"We're sure to come up against challenges on our journey, but our aim will never change—to re-define convenience and customer service for the consumer, whilst making the last mile industry for businesses cost effective, efficient and profitable," Martinson said.