Starting in July, 2016, millions of people will encounter single-minded little autonomous robots in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Switzerland as part of the testing program launched by London-based Starship Technologies in tandem with some major industry partners. This launch is a first-of-its kind fleet of autonomous robots, designed to deliver goods within a two- to three-mile radius of a hub and arrive within 15 to 30 minutes.
The robots drive autonomously but are monitored by humans who can take over control at any time. Launched by two Skype cofounders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, Starship Technologies’ aim is to fundamentally reshape how goods are shipped and delivered, and make local delivery almost free.
The test programs will run in London, Düsseldorf, Bern, and another German city to start, before moving to several other European cities. Starship Technologies will also continue testing in Tallinn, Estonia where its R&D facilities are located. A similar program will be announced for the United States shortly.
As part of the program, dozens of robots will be deployed in the five cities to run first test deliveries and introduce the innovative devices to the general public. Europe’s largest food delivery company, Just Eat; German parcel delivery company Hermes; German retailer Metro Group; and London food delivery startup Pronto.co.uk will test the delivery robots.
According to Ahti Heinla, co-founder, CEO and CTO of Starship Technologies, by launching partnerships with major companies Starship will enter the next phase in their development. While the company has been testing the delivery robots in 12 countries in the last nine months, they will now develop the know-how for running real robotic delivery services.
Robots developed by Starship Technologies are designed for delivering packages, groceries, and food to consumers. Since their trial introductions in European and American cities at the end of 2015, the robots have already driven close to 5,000 miles and met over 400,000 people without a single mishap or incident.
Allan Martinson, Chief Operating Officer of Starship Technologies confirms that while he’s sure the plan will encounter challenges, the aim will never change: to redefine convenience and customer service for the consumer, while making the “last mile” industry for businesses more cost effective, efficient, and profitable. [The last leg of the supply chain is often less efficient, comprising up to 28% of the total cost to move goods. This has become known as the “last mile problem.” The last mile problem can also include the challenge of making deliveries in urban areas where retail stores, restaurants, and other merchants in a central business district often contribute to congestion and safety problems.]
The company and its partners hope to see the streets lined with thousands of these robots bringing customers their goods and hot, ready-to-eat meals while providing an even more cost-effective, efficient, and environmentally friendly delivery solution for restaurants and retailers.