Self-driving delivery robot makes first visit to United States

© Starship Technologies
Don’t especially enjoy tipping the pizza guy? A new self-driving delivery robot put on display in Austin, Texas could be just what you’ve been waiting for.

Starship Technologies, a London-based robotics startup, has built what they say is the first commercially-available delivery robot that can drive itself.

Henry Harris-Burland, Starship’s marketing and communication’s manager, came to Austin, Texas on Wednesday to show off the capabilities of the six-wheeled delivery bot.

“We came to Austin because it’s common sense, it’s obvious. Austin is a very forward-thinking, tech-embracing, innovative city,” Harris-Burland said, according to WNYW.

The company is thinking of putting their diminutive deliverymen, which have yet to be named, to use in three different areas: parcel delivery, grocery delivery, and restaurant food delivery – meaning that paying a 20 percent tip on top of the price of a pizza might become a thing of the past.

“You’d order something as usual online. You’d be offered Starship delivery in the checkout area. And then you’d be notified through your mobile phone when your parcel was ready for delivery. The power is then in your hands,” Harris-Burland told WNYW.

When the delivery droid arrives, the recipient uses the associated app to unlock its lid, take out the contents, and send it back on its way.

They are designed to operate on sidewalks, rather than roads. And if anybody tries to steal them, they are equipped with tracking devices to help apprehend the thieves.

“The robots have two-way audio, so we can actually talk to people in the environment and listen to people... potentially even shout at people if we need to. The robots of course also have nine cameras on the front and back which can be recording.  So if there was an incident to occur, we could put that thief or vandal up on YouTube pretty quickly,” Harris-Burland told WNYW.

Trials runs of the little bots are already underway in London.

Companies such as takeout ordering service Just Eat, German retail chain Metro AG, logistics company Hermes Group, and UK food delivery startup Pronto Technology are running tests using between five and 10 robots each.

Starship will operate the robots on behalf of the companies during the testing period, monitoring their progress and standing by if they encounter situations they can’t deal with in autonomous driving mode.