Takeaway food delivery service Just Eat is preparing to use automated robots to deliver meals to customers in a new trial that will see drones patrolling the streets of London.
The trial will being in the next few months, and will focus on customers close by to restaurants, sparing human drivers from making multiple short round trips and allowing them to focus on longer journeys.
The robots have been developed by Starship Technologies, which has already run tests in Greenwich earlier this year, and is also conducting a pilot scheme with London food delivery startup Pronto.co.uk, and tests in Germany and Switzerland with parcel firm Hermes.
"The partners we're working with are at the top of their game – passionate, driven and quick to embrace new technology, making them the perfect choice for us to truly demonstrate our robotic delivery solution," said Allan Martinson, chief operating officer of Starship Technologies. "We're sure to come up against challenges on our journey, but our aim will never change – to re-define convenience and customer service for the consumer, whilst making the last mile industry for businesses cost-effective, efficient and profitable."
The drones are designed to drive unaided, but monitored by a human operator in a control centre who can take over. The robots have clocked up almost 5,000 miles and encountered over 400,000 people without a single accident thanks to a combination of cameras, sensors and navigation technology. The food stored within the robots is protected with a secure code, which is sent to customers ahead of time.
"This is another example of how we are pushing technology boundaries to provide our customers and restaurant partners with more choice and flexibility," said Fernando Fanton, chief product and technology officer at Just Eat. "We've always been committed to offering our customers new ways to order and pay for their food and now we're right at the heart of a new way of delivering food which is as exciting for us as it will be for those who find a robot on their doorstep."
"Delivery is really where the battle for customers is happening at the moment," said David Jinks, head of consumer research at delivery experts ParcelHero. "Convenient same-hour deliveries are as important as the price of an item to many consumers, if not more so.
"Uber has made on-demand delivery available for every scale of business through the addition of just a few lines of code. By making its UberRUSH API available to everyone, developers and businesses alike, it is enabling entrepreneurs to create completely new types of companies.
"The dark side of UberRUSH's hugely exciting new API is that UberRUSH is still only available in major US cities. If the heart of your business is in Salford rather than San Francisco, that means Uber is missing out on huge amounts of new business. Meanwhile, the rise of the robots is already happening here in the UK, as autonomous drones are now delivering your chilli ginger salmon meal, and before long, your urgent parcels."
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