The food delivery guy is getting a run for his money. Self-driving robots are in the works, ready to deliver and satisfy that craving.
According to TechCrunch, Starship Technologies is working on these robots – in the U.S. for now – with its partners DoorDash and Postmates. The pilot programs are rolling out in Redwood City, Calif., and Washington, D.C., to start.
In case you were wondering if these were dronelike robots like the drones delivering burritos at Virginia Tech or ones that look like people (really giving the delivery guy a run for his money), Starship’s model is somewhere in between. Some say it’s a “cooler on wheels,” while others say it looks more like R2-D2. Either way, the robots can carry about 40 pounds (of food) with the ability to travel at about 4 miles per hour. Powered by a lithium-ion battery, the bot can move along sidewalks and across streets and has already gained basic permission to start making deliveries within a 2-mile radius. And they’re not completely on their own: A human remotely controls the bot through an app that uses street map data to get the bot where it needs to go and back.
Starship, which launched in 2014 by two Skype cofounders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, has already raised $17.2 million in seed funding, with the help of Mercedes-Benz Vans, Shasta Ventures, Matrix Partners, ZX Ventures, Morpheus Ventures, Grishin Robotics and Playfair Capital.
According to TechCrunch, to date, nearly 2 million people across 16 countries and almost 60 cities have connected with these robots who have been in test phase. Over in Europe, the robots have worked with Just Eat, Hermes Parcel Delivery, Media Markt, Swiss Post and Wolt.
Postmates Senior Vice President Holger Luedorf said, “We don’t have a grand vision that robots would be the ultimate delivery mechanism or something. It’s far too early to say. We do want to gather a lot of data.”