If you live in Redwood City, California, or Washington, DC, your next take-out order might be delivered by a robot.
Starship Technologies, a London- and Estonia-based robotics company, announced on January 18 the launch of a pilot program that will have its fleet of autonomous bots make food deliveries for DoorDash in the Silicon Valley city and Postmates in the nation’s capital.
The startup aims to revolutionise on-demand delivery by cracking the last-mile challenge, or making the time-consuming last leg of a delivery. Its self-driving bot, which looks like the love child of an icebox and R2-D2, will ferry goods from grocers and restaurants within a two to three mile radius of the customer.
Starship Technologies claims its fleet will complete deliveries in as little as 15 to 30 minutes.
The robots use cameras, GPS, software, and the company’s proprietary maps to navigate the world around them, and according to the company, may someday help senior citizens and people with mobility issues get what they need. The robots have encountered more than a million pedestrians in testing to date, with few problems.
Starship Technologies, which launched in 2014, was founded by two Skype cofounders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis. The robotics gurus cut their teeth working on a bot that could collect rock samples on Mars and the moon. They later used the technology they developed to power the delivery guy (or autonomous vehicle) of the future.
The company recently announced a $17.2 million seed round led by Mercedes-Benz Vans, Shasta Ventures, and Matrix Partners, among other investors.