The mopeds of delivery drivers everywhere are set to be ousted by ‘ground drones’ that can navigate city streets by themselves.
The invasion has begun with Starship Technologies’ delivery bots beginning their trials in London – and they are scheduled to begin trials in New York in spring.
The robot was invented by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis who hope their machine will be appealing for small businesses who could send up to 20lbs (9kg) of goods to local customers.
It is as yet unnamed, but Keith Cornell, Senior Adviser at Starship told MailOnline: ‘We may hold a contest and they may have multiple names. They might have personalities of their own.’
Unlike robots designed to resemble humans, Starship’s bot is purely functional with a large compartment to hold deliveries, the equivalent size of two grocery bags.
The idea is that consumers could call for a delivery, which is carried to their door by a robot in between five and 30 minutes, for as little as £1 (60cents).
Each six-wheeled ‘ground drone’ is almost completely self-driving, but to begin with will be half controlled by a human operator.
It is constantly connected to the internet, using 3G technology to find its way to the customer’s address.
‘Walking’ on the pavement at about 4mph (3km/h), robots can complete local deliveries within five to 30 minutes from a local hub or retail outlet.
The scheme also costs between 10 to 15 times less than the cost of current last-mile delivery alternatives, Starship claims.
MailOnline tested the unnamed robots at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Mr Cornell said: ‘Trials will be in 14 cities if we get permission from councils.’
Greenwich council has already given us permission and this will be the launch location with robots arriving’ next month’.
He explained that by the end of the year it’s hoped the robots will be 98 per cent autonomous.
‘It’s the last two per cent that’s expensive,’ he added.
So instead, the company plans on having a human operator in charge of 100 bots in case they run into trouble, for example.
He confirmed the firm has retail partners lined up – ‘names you’ll recognise’ – but these are currently under wraps.
‘Demand is not an issue,’ he continued.
‘The robot’s designed to make life easier, so people might still go to the shops to buy flowers, for example, but could use them to carry heavy items such as potatoes home.
Integrated navigation and ‘obstacle avoidance software’ enable the robots to steer clear of pedestrians or to jump over kerbs and cobbles, for example.
However, human operators are ready to step in if an emergency should arise.
This includes if someone tries to steal the bot.
If a thief attempts to tamper with the robot, or snatch it, the operator can take over – talking directly to the wrongdoer and sending police to the drone’s location.
The drone’s nine cameras can also capture the criminal’s face.
In any case, the bot’s ‘cargo trunk’ is sealed throughout the trip- only the customer can open it using a specific app upon the drone’s arrival.
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