A robotic delivery service in Milton Keynes could prove to be the future of locked-down Britain, as miniature autonomous vehicles bring food deliveries to almost 200,000 residents of the town.
Starship Technologies, an autonomous delivery startup created in 2014 by two Skype cofounders, has been testing its beer cooler-sized robots in public since 2015. The small, white, six-wheeled vehicles trundle along pavements to bring small deliveries to residents and workers of the neighbourhoods in which they operate, without the need for a human driver or delivery person.
The Milton Keynes operation is the first commercial deployment in the UK, and started in mid-March, just as the country was implementing widespread social distancing in an effort to tackle the spread of coronavirus. Residents can download the Deliveroo-style Starship Deliveries app to buy cooked food and small orders from supermarkets, which gets loaded into the robots and driven to them.
The robotics firm says demand has been high in the last week, and that it plans to expand further across the UK and US. A spokesperson said: “We’ve had grocery stores, restaurants and other delivery companies get in touch to ask for assistance from our robots. To date the robots have completed over 100,000 autonomous deliveries, travelled over 500,000 miles and completed over 5m road crossings around the world.