De­liv­ery droids do­ing ser­vice in Europe soon

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - STU ROBARTS

FROM this month, pedes­tri­ans in the United King­dom, Ger­many and Switzer­land will be­gin shar­ing their pave­ments with ro­bot couri­ers. The self-driv­ing de­liv­ery droids are be­ing rolled out as part of a pi­lot by Star­ship Tech­nolo­gies, work­ing with a num­ber of ma­jor in­dus­try part­ners.

Star­ship Tech­nolo­gies was set up in 2014 by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, with the aim of rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing lo­cal de­liv­er­ies. The ro­bots are de­signed for de­liv­er­ing pack­ages, gro­ceries and food to con­sumers in a threeto five-kilo­me­tre ra­dius and travel at a “brisk walk­ing speed” of six kilo­me­tres per hour on av­er­age, but can travel at up to 16 km/h.

They are built with off-the-shelf com­po­nents, such as an Nvidia Te­gra K1 pro­ces­sor, to keep the costs down. They also make use of a num­ber of con­ven­tional cam­eras, a 360° cam­era and in­frared and ul­tra­sonic sen­sors to nav­i­gate au­tonomously, but are mon­i­tored by hu­man op­er­a­tors in con­trol cen­tres who can take con­trol at any time if re­quired.

Star­ship has been test­ing the ro­bots in 12 coun­tries for nine months. Around 8 000 km are said to have been cov­ered and over 400 000 peo­ple en­coun­tered with­out any ac­ci­dents.

The ro­bot will take be­tween 15 to 30 min­utes to ar­rive and, once it has ar­rived, the cus­tomer will be sent a unique Pin code with which to ac­cess the lid of the ro­bot and take the goods. The ro­bot will then re­turn to its base.

Star­ship said the com­bi­na­tion of Pin-only ac­cess and re­mote track­ing makes the ro­bot de­liv­ery sys­tem both safe and se­cure. There are also nine cam­eras in to­tal that can cap­ture the ac­tions of any po­ten­tial ag­gres­sors. In ad­di­tion, they fea­ture two-way au­dio so that op­er­a­tors in the con­trol room can speak to peo­ple who might ap­proach the ro­bots.

Lo­ca­tion track­ing is said to be to the near­est few cen­time­tres, so they can be found eas­ily if stolen.

The ro­bots are elec­tric and have four mo­tors that drive six wheels, with power com­ing from lithium bat­ter­ies that last for about three hours. Star­ship Tech­nolo­gies said it could eas­ily in­crease the bat­tery ca­pac­ity by a fac­tor of 10, but that the ro­bots are cur­rently be­ing trans­ported a lot by plane and they can’t fly on a plane with a bat­tery any larger. — Giz­mag.

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