Robots help with deliveries for the Delivery market
An independent delivery startup, Starship Technologies, is created in Milton Keynes in 2014 by two Skype co-founders. It is a robotic delivery service that aims to deliver food to almost 200,000 residents in the neighbourhoods where they operate without the need for a human driver or delivery person.
Milton Keynes is the first place of operation for this startup in the UK, and it is still in full swing at the height of the covid-19 pandemic. To access the service, residents of the neighbourhoods where Starship operates must download the application and through it they can buy cooked food and place small orders in supermarkets which will be loaded onto the robots and delivered. In addition, Sam Crooks, the Mayor of Milton Keynes, stressed that this is an ideal service at the moment as people have to stay at home and so can get their shopping done by a robot without having to go outside.
Andy Curtis, head of UK operations also commented on Starship saying “We have seen huge increases in demand since we started operating in Milton Keynes two years ago. We are excited that both residents and workers can now enjoy this economic and convenient benefit in the centre of Milton Keynes, and we hope it will make the city an even more attractive place to work in the future”.
Following the high demand in recent weeks, the company has expanded into the United Kingdom and United States as a number of restaurants, food shops and delivery companies have requested the company’s help in making use of its service, according to one of Starship’s spokespersons. “We are expanding into new neighbourhoods every week. Before the Covid-19 crisis, we were expanding into a new area on a monthly basis, but now we constantly receive enquiries asking us if we can deliver to new locations,” notes Henry Harris-Burland, Starship’s vice president of marketing. In the United States, Starship began by delivering to college campuses and is expanding into more and more regular neighbourhoods, from Tempe, Arizona to Fairfax, Virginia.
He also notes that “We are doing everything we can to keep our customers and employees safe. All of the sanitation processes around our service have been reviewed by experts and we are following their guidance on operating procedures to ensure a safe and convenient service for everyone. Without robots, more humans are needed in the supply chain for delivery, and as humans are the key source of transmission, the use of robots reduces this risk.
How do they work? These are small intelligent robots that use a GPS point on the map to find the destination location and drop off the order. They move at approximately 4 mph and delivery takes about 30 minutes. The robots cannot enter the buildings so they must wait at the door. Their space is limited, they have a capacity of up to three pizzas along with some salads and drinks, according to the authorities these are temperature controlled robots so if you order a pizza it will be kept warm and if you order a salad it will be kept cold.
Even so, humans are still essential, from Sodexo, the food service company that works with Starship to deploy deliveries, they point out that some tasks are still performed by people such as food preparation. Bret Greenstein, head of Artificial Intelligence for Cognizant adds that “Robots should not be used to replace customer relationships” and that “Obviously, you have the potential to lose the human touch” “We can miss talking to people and saying ‘Have a nice night’ and ‘Wow, it’s cold outside'”.
On the other hand, Karakuri, another United Kingdom-based startup, has developed food preparation robots. In its pre-pandemic days, its DK-One robot prepared meals in restaurants and central kitchens, but now it also receives enquiries from large catering companies and grocery businesses. These robots are installed to help with some of the food preparation, thus making the staff more distant from each other and also helping to reduce movement in small spaces in order to reduce human contact in the production lines.