It drives around on its own, like some kind of oversized remote-control car, making its way from restaurant kitchens to hungry customers along city pavements.
The small six-wheeled delivery robot from tech company Starship is currently being trialled in several cities as a way to bring food from shops and restaurants to customers at home.
There couldn’t be a better time for it to get started, with millions around the world stuck at home under lockdown and being urged to avoid unnecessary contact with the outside world.
Indeed, the first customers in Germany to receive a delivery by this robot last week agreed this is a sensible alternative at a time like this.
“If you’re forced to work from home, this is a great thing, ” says customer Leonie Gehrckens, among those to have seen it in action this week in Hamburg.
Roughly the size of a case of beer, these three-axle vehicles can carry 10kg. However it’s only capable of a maximum speed of 6km/h, meaning that pizza will probably be long cold by the time it reaches the other side of town.
However that’s less of a concern for supermarkets, such as the organic food store Bio.lose in Hamburg, among the first to trial the service. Pedestrians also won’t need to watch out for high-speed robots zipping along the path due to its lower speed.
What’s more, the robot is smart enough to detect obstacles in its way. “Our robots are equipped with sensors and cameras, and have GPS and radar on board, ” says mission coordinator Jan Werum.
The small robot had already been seen in Hamburg and other cities around the world in recent years. However, this is the first time the robot is being trusted to handle the journey without being accompanied by a watchdog.
For customers, the process is familiar to food delivery services, in that orders are placed via an app on a mobile phone or tablet and the robot shows up at a given location a short time later.
“We’re delivering everything: Fruit, vegetables, pizza, sushi – whatever people ask for, ” Werum said.
Anyone worried their delivery might be stolen by hungry thieves can rest assured: The goods are safely locked away in the robot’s cargo area.
What’s more, any thief would be caught on camera and trigger an alarm sound and a notification to central office, where the robot can be controlled remotely. – dpa
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