Step aside self driving cars and drones, and make way for automated trundling robodelivery carts, capable of delivering the equivalent of two bags of groceries from a local store to your front door within 30 minutes - that is if your local store is 3.5 miles or less away.
The robodelivery is the brainchild of Skype co-founders Janus Friis and Ahti Heinla and will be built by their new company Starship Technologies. The vehicle, capable of delivering at a leisurely 4 miles an hour, has all the bells, whistles and more of as that of Google's self driving cars - autonomous operation, obstacle avoidance capability, low carbon footprint, and mobile app tracking.
The company's website explains that, "Starship’s robots can drive intelligently on the sidewalks at pedestrian speeds. They know their location and can navigate their way through an area with perfect precision all whilst seamlessly merging with pedestrian traffic. The robots can detect obstacles, adjust speed or stop and safely cross the streets. Additionally, Starship’s robots are monitored by human operators who can, at any time, take control over the device and view the world through the robot’s eyes, communicating with people around it if necessary.”
Apart from taking away job prospects from bicycle driving delivery people, the company says robodelivery is non-threatening to humans. Ahti Heinla says, "They travel at the slow speed of four miles per hour – a brisk walking pace. They don’t fly – these are not drones. They travel on pavements/sidewalks, blending safely in with pedestrian traffic."
"With e-commerce continuing to grow consumers expect to have more convenient options for delivery – but at a cost that suits them. The last few miles often amounts to the majority of the total delivery cost. Our robots are purposely designed using the technologies made affordable by mobile phones and tablets – it's fit for purpose, and allows for the cost savings to be passed on to the customer."
Starship Technologies is "testing and demonstrating prototypes and plans to launch the first pilot services in cooperation with its service partners in the U.S, UK and other countries in 2016."
Heinla says his new company’s vision revolves around three zeros: “zero cost, zero waiting time and zero environmental impact. We want to do to local deliveries what Skype did to telecommunications.”