Takeout App to Use Delivery Robots

Just Eat is a takeout food delivery service and app generally manned by a staff or restaurant employees. However, the company has recently revealed its plans to use delivery robots developed by Starship Technologies for orders in limited neighborhoods from a small selection of restaurants in London.

stAccording to Just Eat, the robots have already been utilized in cities on other continents. The delivery bots that underwent beta testing in these other locations have already traveled a combined 5,000 miles without a single accident.

Starship Technology developed robots that are small, autonomous and capable of carrying small packages over short distances. The robots have onboard cameras that keep the device aware of its changing surroundings and can be over ridden by human operators in a command center given complicated situations. The compartment in which the packages are kept (meal orders, in this case) are secured and can only be accessed through entering the correct access code.

“There is a lot of talk in the industry of this sort of automation, and the use of drones as well, but there are many health and safety and compliance issues to overcome,” explained Bryan Roberts, analyst at TCC Global. “Unleashing these robots on the street carries an inherent risk, and may even show a naive view of human nature and people’s desire to interfere with this type of technology.”

That said, Starship Technologies’ chief executive Ahti Heinla has responded to this alleged threat before, stating that there have yet to be examples of the general public interfering with or hijacking the robots.

“People do not actually interfere with it on the pavement,” he explained. “We have driven thousands of miles with robots like this… and the vast majority of people just ignore it.”

st2Metro Group, a German retailer, as well as parcel delivery company Hermes and London-based food delivery service Pronto are also testing the robots, hoping to be the first companies to discover a new and more efficient way around hiring employees.

Other companies like Deliveroo help match companies with people willing to run deliveries, allowing freelancers to receive a small payment for every meal that they deliver.

“It’s a laudable and adventurous idea,” posited Roberts, “but I also wonder how this could be rolled out at scale when there is already a very low cost human alternative.”

It’s true that implementing a new technology that no doubt requires a high cost initial investment and cannot promise consistent success is likely to be a challenge. After all, how well are these robots actually understood and is it smart to put such valuable technology to work unsupervised in the streets? While the robots may have worked well without incident, I would be curious as to the cities where they were tested. Were those little autonomous delivery bots to be set free holding potentially valuable packages and even takeout food in dangerous areas of Chicago or Oakland, they would likely not have the same incident-free success record.

Perhaps autonomous flying drones would work better, as they could at least remain out of reach during deliveries.

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