New wave of robots set to deliver the goods

The robots of the future will be coming soon, rolling along at a lumbering pace with those goods you just ordered. The six-wheeled, knee-high robots from startup Starship Technologies are part of a new wave of automated systems taking aim at the “last mile” delivery of goods to consumers. Starship is launching a pilot project of robotic deliveries of parcels, groceries and prepared foods in early February in the US capital Washington, with a similar test taking place in Redwood City, California. The startup, created by two of the founders of Skype, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, has already begun testing in several European cities as part of an effort to bring new efficiencies to local delivery.

The goal is to enable delivery within a radius of 3 kilometres within 15-30 minutes of an order, for $1 or less, with the autonomous robots travelling on sidewalks and alerting consumers of their arrival via smartphone app. Starship spokesman Henry Harris-Burland said the founders were looking to “disrupt” an industry which had seen little efficiency improvement from new technology. “We’re trying to solve real social and economic problems,” Harris-Burland said during a demonstration of the delivery bots in Washington. “This will take cars and vans off the road. We can also provide deliveries to the elderly and handicapped who have difficulty getting around.”