Skype Co-Founders Announce Debut Grocery Delivery Robots
LONDON, UK - In what could be the next wave of fresh grocery delivery technology, former Skype Co-Founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis have released a new robot this month that can deliver groceries by ground travel at almost no cost to consumers.
The new company, Starship Technologies, is planning to introduce fleets of small, environmentally friendly, and earthbound delivery robots that, according to the company, will open up new opportunities for businesses like grocery stores or even FedEx and UPS.
“Our vision revolves around three zeroes – zero cost, zero waiting time, and zero environmental impact,” explains Heinla, Skype Co-Founder and CEO at Starship Technologies. “We want to do to local deliveries what Skype did to telecommunications.”
The new robot is reportedly capable of carrying the equivalent of two grocery bags, and will complete local deliveries within 5 to 30 minutes. Shoppers will be able to track the robot’s location in real time through a mobile app and on arrival only the app holder is able to unlock the cargo. According to a press release, integrated navigation and obstacle avoidance software will enable the robots to drive autonomously, but human operators will oversee the robot’s safety at all times.
What sets Starship apart from its competitors, Heinla says, is that its technology eliminates what the company calls the largest inefficiency in the delivery chain—the last mile. Instead of door-to-door delivery, retailers can ship the goods in bulk to a local hub, then the robot fleet completes the delivery to the shopper’s door for what Heinla predicts will be a much smaller cost.
“With ecommerce continuing to grow consumers expect to have more convenient options for delivery – but at a cost that suits them,” Heinla continues in the press release. “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.”
To be clear, these are not drones and do not fly. Heinla says the goal is for them to slip seamlessly into the environment at a brisk walking pace of four miles per hour. Its too early to compare the technology directly to its competitors like Amazon Prime Now and Instacart, as everything the company claims has yet to be independently verified. However, you can expect Starship to launch its "pilot services" in partnership with other companies across the United States, the UK, and other countries in 2016.