Wednesday, January 20News For London

Food delivering robots: will this be the new normal?

The future of food delivery has arrived. Starship Technologies, a robotics company have expanded their autonomous delivery robots to another town in the UK. Partnering with Co-op, Starship has been delivering food items to residents in Northampton.

Photo credit: Ami Gill

The small 100 pound electric robots travel up to four miles to deliver food, working around the customers’ schedule. They are quite a sight to see when you are out and about. It’s as though you are in a futuristic world where robots and humans walk side by side. 

Ordering food with Starship is very simple. Customers download the Starship Technologies app and then shop in the local store. Delivery times vary from 30 – 70 minutes, depending on what you order. Not only can you get small food orders, but Starship has also partnered with local restaurants for takeaway deliveries.

Where will these futuristic robots go next?

Craig Noonan, head of PR at Co-op, told Westminster World that they would love to roll out the robots nationwide. There are two major constraints, however, one being that the robots need flat surfaces to function. Another is local council permission to permit autonomous robots on the streets. 

London may have to wait for the technology to catch up before it sees these little white robots rolling around. As the capital is a busy place, the robots will need room to move around and then there’s the extra traffic.

Despite some of the literal obstacles in the way of these robots, they have still proven popular. A spokesperson for Starship Technologies said: “Demand has continued to grow for our service in Milton Keynes, even more so in recent months during the pandemic where we have seen our order numbers triple.” 

Photo credit: Ami Gill

With the service proving popular, Starship has also said: “We’ll be expanding into new towns and cities soon.” Right now, it is unclear where these robots will be popping up but Starship’s success signals a robot expansion.

How about the human cost of robot delivery?

As with any technological advancement, there is always the question of the human cost. Will these robots take jobs off delivery drivers?

Hugh Radojev, senior reporter at Retail Week, said that both Co-op and Ocado are excited about the long term effects of the robots. 

With major grocers trying to cut down on carbon emissions, these electronic robots offer a great solution. But they are only one solution and Hugh Radojev noted that electric vehicles will appear before delivery robots take anybody’s job. 

It will take decades before we see delivery robots taking over. Nevertheless, their presence hints at a newer normal as we emerge out of the social distant pandemic. 

With Amazon getting approval for its drones over the summer, there is a sign that delivery methods are beginning to change. Walking side by side with robots, looking up to the sky, and seeing delivery drones may be in our future. But it seems that is a long way off.