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Delivery robots take to the streets of London

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Drone delivery may still be a way off becoming reality, but one alternative with its wheels firmly on the ground is on the verge of becoming an everyday sight in London – in the form of delivery robots.

Takeaway companies Just Eat and Pronto are taking delivery of some of the first robots to be delivered by Starship Technologies in a testing programme that will also cover cities in Germany and Switzerland.

The delivery robots are designed to deliver packages, groceries and food to consumers in a two to three mile radius within 30 minutes. They drive autonomously while being monitored by human operators in control centres. They’ve already been on the road in European and American cities and so have have covered almost 5,000 miles, meeting more than 400,000 people without, the technology company says, a single accident.

“The 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,” said Allan Martinson, chief operating officer of Starship Technologies, based in Estonia. “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.”

David Buttress, CEO of Just Eat said “We are continuously looking for ways to use technology to make our customers’ lives easier – whether that’s how people order or pay for their food or how the food is delivered. Starship is right at the forefront of innovation in the delivery sector and so it’s a natural fit for us to be partnering with them to bring delivery robots to our high streets.”

James Roy Poulter, CEO and co-founder at London food delivery company Pronto said “As soon as we saw the Starship delivery robot we knew this was the solution we’d been looking for in our mission to make it even easier for people to access quality, affordable food at the touch of a button.

“We can’t wait to launch this test programme in London and roll it out in time across other cities as we expand our reach both in the UK and abroad. We hope to see the streets lined with thousands of these robots bringing people their hot, ready-to-eat Pronto meal on-demand and providing an even more cost-effective, efficient and environmentally friendly delivery solution for our customers.”

The test programmes will run in London, Düsseldorf, Bern and another German city to start, before moving to several other European and American cities. Starship Technologies will also continue testing in Tallinn, Estonia where its R&D facilities are located. Starship Technologies is headed by former Skype co-founder Ahti Heinla, while chief operating officer Allan Martinson is a serial tech entrepreneur.

In Germany, delivery company Hermes is testing the robots.

Frank Rausch, CEO of Hermes Germany, said: “At Hermes we believe that parcel delivery’s main goal is to fully satisfy the customers’ needs in receiving their online shopping orders as fast and convenient as possible. Nobody likes to spend hours waiting for the courier just to have a parcel delivered. Therefore, individually scheduled delivery services will become increasingly important within the next years. By testing Starship robots on the last mile, we use the opportunity to boost our service level and make parcel delivery still easier and more comfortable than it is today.”

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