Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis are poised to unleash a fleet of trundling robodelivery vehicles, promising to get up to two bags of groceries to your door within 30 minutes.
Starship Technologies' bots, which are capable of delivering up to 5km from a central hub at a leisurely 6km/h, have all the bells and whistles you'd expect from the ultra modern alternative to the delivery boy's bicycle – low carbon footprint, autonomous operation, obstacle avoidance capability, mobile app tracking, and so forth.
The blurb explains:
Starship’s robots can drive intelligently on the sidewalks at pedestrian speeds. They know their location and can navigate their way through an area with perfect precision all whilst seamlessly merging with pedestrian traffic.
The robots can detect obstacles, adjust speed or stop and safely cross the streets.
Additionally, Starship’s robots are monitored by human operators who can, at any time, take control over the device and view the world through the robot’s eyes, communicating with people around it if necessary.
The company is keen to stress the complete non-threat its robots pose to humanity. Ahti Heinla said: "They travel at the slow speed of four miles per hour – a brisk walking pace. They don’t fly – these are not drones. They travel on pavements/sidewalks, blending safely in with pedestrian traffic."
Assuming the bots survive interaction with their fleshy masters, and we can imagine plenty of ways they might not arrive intact at their destination, the bottom line for the company is about keeping customers' cash (or as much as possible) in their pockets, according to Heinla.
He explained: "With e-commerce continuing to grow consumers expect to have more convenient options for delivery – but at a cost that suits them. The last few miles often amounts to the majority of the total delivery cost. Our robots are purposely designed using the technologies made affordable by mobile phones and tablets – it's fit for purpose, and allows for the cost savings to be passed on to the customer."
Starship Technologies is currently "testing and demonstrating prototypes and plans to launch the first pilot services in cooperation with its service partners in the US, UK and other countries in 2016". ®