While Alphabet is busy drone-delivering burritos to stoned college students in Virginia, a competitor has moved in on the snack-delivery game right here in San Francisco. Dubbed Starship, the autonomous delivery robot doesn't so much fly through the sky as it does plod along the city's sidewalks — with the Chronicle reporting that makers of the cooler-sized device began SF testing yesterday with an inaugural delivery of pastries.
The robot is the work of the London-headquartered Starship Technologies, a company which seeks to "revolutionise local delivery." Starship Technologies, which launched in 2014, requested and received permission from the city of San Francisco to test its robot on our actual streets — and so it did so yesterday, arriving at the Richmond District home of Julie O'Keefe with the aforementioned treat (and throngs of reporters) in tow.
And while the device looks like a little harmless beer cooler on wheels, the company has grand plans for it. "Our delivery platform will launch a new era of instant, unscheduled delivery as well as significantly lower the costs of shipments," marketing copy explains. "Parcels and groceries are directly delivered from stores or specialised hubs, at the time that the client requests via a mobile app. It takes 5 to 30 minutes for the shipment to arrive and the robots’ entire journey can be monitored on a smartphone."
We first learned about Starship last April, when the company's CEO Allan Martinson spoke with the Chronicle about how his bots will replace some traditional delivery methods. “It doesn’t make sense to drive a two-ton car to deliver two pounds of something," he noted.
The robots navigate city sidewalks at roughly four miles per hour, and top out at 40 pounds, so don't expect to see these things zipping by you anytime soon. And those hoping that a proliferation of these bots will translate to free lunch for anyone daring enough to try and rob a robot should think again — once the goods to be delivered are placed inside by a business owner, the top locks and can only be opened by the intended recipient (theoretically, at least).
The eventual goal is to have one employee monitoring 100 Starships — only jumping in to take change when something weird goes down — thus so significantly reducing the cost of delivery that business owners "could deliver laundry, wine or even a single packet of light bulbs and still make a profit."
Starship Technologies had to get a one-time permit from DPW to conduct yesterday's delivery test, but company executives hope city officials will pass laws legalizing the bots on a wide scale. It's not a crazy idea, as, according to the Chronicle, at least one US city has already done so.
As such, we may be seeing more of these on our streets in the near future. Either way, yesterday's test proved that the future is here, San Francisco, and that it brought pastries.
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