Delivery Bots Are Coming

The age of the robot is fast upon us. Gone are the days of watching a Terminator film and dreaming of robots running the world. Gone even are the days of wishing for a robotic maid to whip through your home top to bottom and render it spic and span. Delivery bots are here.

An Estonian design firm has promised such bots hitting the streets of London by year’s end. And in a period where everything from delivery drones to autonomous cars are being trial tested, it’s become increasingly clear we’re not in the Industrial Age anymore.

Starship Technologies' delivery bot. Photo courtesy of Starship Technologies.

Starship Technologies’ delivery bot. Photo courtesy of Starship Technologies.

Starship Technologies (kudos for a title that sounds like a sci-fi film) endeavors to have bots on the streets of London by the close of the fiscal year. The startup is the brainchild of former Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Dane Jaanus Friis. And the pair has made it their mission to make getting your groceries and parcel delivery much more hassle free.

The bots run on batteries and will navigate up to a3-milee radius. They weigh roughly 40 pounds and generate virtually no carbon emissions. So with an almost non-existent carbon footprint to boot, the bots seem to be yet another winning entrepreneurial idea for the two Skype alum.

CEO Ahti Heinla says, “We want to do to local deliveries what Skype did to telecommunications.”

Starship Technologies' delivery bots have been tested in Tallinn and London.

Starship Technologies’ delivery bots have been tested in Tallinn and London.

We are already experiencing a wave of delivery services testing the limits of drone technology. But here’s an option straight out of an episode of the Jetsons. The robots that run on land will be functional by the close of the year for full-on testing in London proper. Imagine bobbly bots conjured much in the style of Star Wars’ BB-8. Except these digital creatures whip from point A to Point B on wheels, not some space age tech concocted in a galaxy far, far away.

Just what can you order? Anything from groceries to small packages. Yet in terms of practicality there are a number of questions worth answering. How will these delivery bots handle the obstacles of an unpredictable urban terrain? Will there be routes expressly reserved for delivery bots? And of course the elephant in the room with just this sort of tech is the question of national security. How do we guard against acts of terrorism guised in the form of a delivery bot?

Starship Technologies' delivery bots run at 4 miles per hour.

Starship Technologies’ delivery bots roll along at 4 miles per hour (~6kph).

For the moment, laws are vague. And customers benefit from a gray zone feeling out period when it comes to such tech. Should you hop to London this fall perhaps you’ll get a chance to have your Marks & Spencers groceries whipped over to you by little bots.

Photos courtesy of Starship Technologies