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Skype founders invent self-driving delivery robot


Starship robot

When we talk about improving home delivery, everyone seems to focus on drones.

But a new company hopes to bring future-gazers down to earth – literally – with the introduction of a delivery robot.

The droid in question travels at an average speed of 4mph over pavement, and can deliver groceries to a customer in less than 30 minutes.

Each robot is capable of carrying 20lbs of weight, which is the estimated weight of two grocery bags, as revealed by the Telegraph.

The Starship robot works using custom mapping and navigation software and hardware, which helps it route the customer’s home and avoid obstacles.

What’s more, the cost of delivery is currently set at less than £1, and could be five to fifteen times cheaper than human deliveries.

The invention is the brainchild of a new company called Starship, created by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis.

It does not take the whole delivery chain from an Amazon warehouse to your doorstep, it only takes the last few miles,” explains Heinla. “But right now the last few miles are the most difficult part for the delivery vans. They need to find parking spaces and so forth, so our robot is taking care of that.”

“For the large e-commerce companies it helps to reduce the costs. For the local businesses it opens up new possibilities, allowing people to order deliveries over the internet rather than coming to the store physically.”

Related: 11 jawdropping videos that will make you want a drone

Starship is currently testing the product and demonstrating prototypes, and hopes to roll out a pilot service in the UK next year.

The company plans for the robots to mostly service suburban areas, with initial testing to begin in Greenwich, London.

“If we decide to start serving an area, we need to run the robots for some period of time under human control – maybe a few days, maybe a few weeks, to map all the landmarks and lanes and potholes,” explains Friis. “After that, the robot can drive itself.”

Friis continues: “If anything comes up, like a difficult road crossing or a new unexpected situation on the roads, or if there are lots of people around and it needs to figure out how to navigate through them, it can always call home, and the operate can see what the robot sees and overtake the driving.”

Drones vs robots: Who will win in the battle for delivery domination? Let us know in the comments.

Check out our ‘Apple Watch – Is this the future?’ video below:


November 3, 2015, 2:59 pm

The biggest issue with this would be the idiots who would purposefully damage or obstruct the thing. At least with 'drones' nobody can interfere very easily.


November 3, 2015, 5:57 pm

So we'd have to be in to receive the delivery. If these really take off (no pun intended) then perhaps there'll be customised parcel drop-boxes that these things could leave the delivery in.

Also unless there's a built-in ejection system for throwing the delivery over the fence and into a handy pond or water-butt then Yodel will never adopt them.

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