When they told you, you could be traded in for a younger model, you probably never imagined they’d come in the guise of a 2ft tall hunk of plastic attached to 6 wheels and travelling at speeds of up to 4 mph – AND carrying your neighbours groceries. But that’s exactly what residents of Greenwich have coming their way this summer as new driverless vehicle trials begin on the streets of London.
‘Autonomous couriers’ as they’re calling them; robots to you and I, have been pioneered by appropriately named tech business ‘Starship Technologies’ who lo and behold are at least part owned by the people who brought us Skype. They can carry up to two bags of groceries at a time and have a special lock that can only be opened by the recipient’s smartphone; which so long as you live in Hampstead or Chelsea might actually serve to protect from break ins.
If that’s not bizarre enough for you already, an actual humanoid operator connected via wifi will be able to access an on-board loudspeaker to warn potentially startled or confused pedestrians, while an “obstacle avoidance system” will presumably safeguard against actually hitting them.
Starship Technologies say that grocery robots will be cheaper than the vans and couriers traditionally used for the final leg of deliveries, and they’ll use less energy than a light bulb. And lastly, putting all our minds at ease, the company insist that robot vehicles will cause less stress and alarm to pedestrians than airborne drones which are also in test phase.
The trials are part of a major £8 million government investment project to prove the case for driverless vehicles. We wonder how long one of these vehicles will last on the streets of London? We also wonder if they make them big enough to transport wicker hampers? So many questions!
It’s affirmative – take me to your larder….