From this month onwards we will be sharing the road with robots. Yes, actual robots. Delivery bots will be dotted throughout Germany, Switzerland and the UK. The autonomous delivery units will be bracing the streets thanks to Starship technology, founded by Skype cofounders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis.
Each robot would be equipped with 360° camera and infrared sensors that allow the robot to operate without human input within a 3-mile (5KM) radius. They are the robotic equivalent to a shopping basket holding up to 2 grocery bags full of items. During the pilot tests there have been no accidents and with the bot successfully mingling with pedestrians at a top speed of four miles per hour.
However, there are concerns. Remember HitchBOT? After debuting in its hometown of Canada, it set out on its quest of experiencing the “American dream” with its very own bucket list of places to visit. This social experiment was created to test the interaction between humans and robots. Unfortunately, HitchBOT’s dream was not realised. Just two weeks after its American debut the free-spirited robot was brutally vandalised at the hands of us humans.
Could this happen to the Starship delivery bots too?
The device has in-built headset to deal with similar situations, to any extent anyway. A human operator monitors the courier bot and the police will be notified of a possible theft. Additionally, each cargo bay is locked and can only be accessed by the recipient. To protect the bots further, each model can be tracked so that their whereabouts are always known.
Reports already bank on the bots becoming a more practical alternative to flying drones. However, there are cons to both technologies. Unable to cope with city environments, the Starship robot is currently limited by its ability to only move throughout less dense suburb areas. But who knows, within the next few years Speed Couriers could be welcoming the Starship bot into our fleet.