Starship Technologies, an Estonian start-up, wants to disrupt retail and short-distance logistics with autonomous delivery robots, and has just announced an initiative in Europe that brings a future of delivery by “droid” closer to the consumer.

London, Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Bern are the first cities to test out the droids, with food companies Just Eat, Hermes, Metro Group and partnering with Starship to roll them out. Other European cities and the US are expected to follow shortly.

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“We’re aiming to revolutionize the last-mile delivery industry for customers and businesses by offering 24/7, on-demand delivery at a low price unheard of in the current environment,” declares Henry Harris-Burland, marketing and communications manager at Starship Technologies.

The smart robots can carry groceries, food orders and packages, and deliver products within a 3-mile radius. Equipped with GPS and video cameras to navigate, they can reach a customer within half an hour, while traveling on the sidewalk at a safe speed of 4mph. Customers can also track the progress of their delivery via an app.

To ensure security, the robots are opened with a unique code known only to the customer. Deliveries are also monitored remotely by employees who can intervene in the event of any problems. Unlike delivery drones, which have been criticized for various reasons, Starship’s droids are not subject to regulations affecting airborne vehicles and are unlikely to cause injury if they malfunction. The robots use sensors to avoid obstacles and pedestrians on paths, promising not only safety but reduced congestion and emissions.

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Domino’s has revealed a similar delivery robot in Australia, the DRU (Domino’s Robotic Unit). Don Meij, Domino’s Group CEO and Managing Director, describes the prototype as the company’s first step in changing “the entire pizza ordering experience.”

The possibilities of these machines extend beyond retail and food services. Aethon’s TUG, for example, has been used in hospitals to assist medical staff and deliver everything from drugs and blood samples to meals and linens.

As mentioned in our Frontier(less) Retail report, autonomous delivery robots have the potential to improve the customer experience in online retail. They can shorten delivery times and appeal to consumers who seek instant gratification. Going further, these self-driving robots could not only revolutionize local deliveries, but also increase efficiency and minimize costs for businesses across a range of industries.

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