Author(s): Raghu Gopal
This week, Switzerland's national postal service, Swiss Post, announced a partnership with UK start-up Starship Technologies. Swiss Post will participate in a trial delivery programme currently being run by the UK company, that will demonstrate how its robots can move along pavements to deliver parcels and post.
The partnership with Swiss Post follows the launch of commercial tests in the UK and Germany last month. Starship Technologies said that it will soon announce partners in the US. The company indicated it chose the UK for its trials because of the government's clear commitment to leading-edge technologies such as autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles.
Robots developed by Starship Technologies are equipped with cameras and sensors enabling them to deliver packages, groceries and food to consumers within a 5 km radius. Although the robots work autonomously, they are supervised by human operators in control centres who can take corrective actions when needed.
Web retailers can offer robotic delivery as a shipping option, and consumers can follow the robots' progress right to their front doors. In a recent interview, Starship Technologies CEO, Ahti Heinla, pointed to cost savings and zero emissions as the main drivers for choosing the robotic delivery option.
Starship plans to roll out its robot fleet for commercial deliveries in 2017 after the trial period. As online sales soar and leading Web retailers look to faster and cheaper delivery options, companies such as Starship Technologies offer an interesting alternative to truck rolls. Theft and vandalism will certainly be concerns, but these robots know their way around the streets and learn quickly. Artificial intelligence is taking to the streets.