My children stood in awe earlier this week after spotting these robots quietly going about their business collecting and delivering groceries in Cambourne (near Cambridge), distracting them from the playground they were there to visit. These robots, produced by Starship Technologies, have already been operating in Northampton and Milton Keynes.
The robots travel at human walking pace - no faster than 4mph, and have obstacle detection technology to prevent them hitting things.
My thoughts then turned to how theft and vandalism are prevented. According to the Starship website:
"Our robots are locked and secure during transport. The lid can only be opened using the customer’s mobile app or the company who are providing the goods to be delivered.
The robots are constantly monitored and equipped with twelve cameras and two-way audio communication systems. Any improper conduct will be detected immediately. If an incident does occur with a Starship Robot, one of our Robot Rescuers can respond quickly. The lid is locked and the robot is tracked to the nearest inch".
It will be interesting to see how autonomous vehicles will be used in the retail and grocery sectors and whether the development of the obstacle detection and theft prevention technology will mean that this will become an everyday sight on the UK streets. Unsurprisingly, patent filing activity in the field of autonomous vehicles has seen significant growth in recent years which is set to continue.