The Mailman of the Future Is an Autonomous Robot with Six Wheels

Starship Technologies - a start-up launched by two Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla, and Janus Friis will make the robot 1 photo
Photo: Starship Technologies
It has six wheels, it's the size of a cooler and is free from CO2 emissions. It works on a pre-schedule autonomously, and can complete local deliveries within 5 to 30 minutes from a local hub or retail outlet. The best part? It drops the package 10 to 15 times cheaper than the cost of current last-mile delivery alternatives.
European company Starship Technologies - a start-up launched by two Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla, and Janus Friis - announced yesterday the launch of a new delivery concept. The new company aims to improve local delivery of goods and groceries, fundamentally making it almost free.

OK, hold that thought for a sec. It’s not entirely free, but the company’s founders did mention they are planning to “do to local deliveries what Skype did to telecommunications.” So these machines are not drones? No, they’re as earthbound as humans, only that they tend to be a lot more prompt with the goods they’re carrying.

Speaking of that, Starship says their robots are capable of carrying the equivalent of two grocery bags, and customers can choose from a selection of short, precise delivery slots - meaning that goods arrive at a time that suits them. Moreover, during distribution, shoppers can track the robot’s location in real time through a mobile app, and on arrival only the app holder can unlock the cargo. Well, that takes care of security features - more or less.

As to finding their way around pedestrians - yes, they will be using sidewalks instead of roads - it’s the integrated navigation and obstacle avoidance software that enables the robots to drive autonomously. However, they are also overseen by human operators who can step in to ensure safety at all times.

Why do we need these self-conscious boxes on wheels?

“For businesses, Starship’s technology eliminates the largest inefficiency in the delivery chain, the last mile. Instead of expensive and time-consuming door-to-door delivery, retailers can ship the goods in bulk to a local hub, and then the robot fleet completes the delivery to the shopper’s door for a fraction of the cost.”

Naturally, the prototypes are currently in their testing phase, as Starship Technologies plans to launch the first pilot services in cooperation with its service partners in the US, UK and other countries in 2016.

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