Skype Co-founders Introduce Self-Driving Delivery Robots

At the beginning of November this year, two former Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, announced the launch of a brand new company called Starship Technologies.

Their mission? To make local delivery free. Their solution? Self-driving delivery robots.

If you want to know more about these new robots and how they might end up shaping the future when it comes to good home delivery, then I invite you to keep on reading.

Starship Technologies: Are they reaching for the stars?

Starship’s goal is to fundamentally reshape how goods are shipped and delivered, and drastically reduce the cost of local delivery services. Drastically means bringing the costs down almost close to zero.

An automated delivery system that is almost free may sound too good to be true, but it’s exactly what the founders of Starship Technologies had in mind when they came up with the idea of creating a fleet of autonomous, road-bound delivery robots.

Here’s what Ahti Heinla, CEO at Starship Technologies, had to say:

“Our vision revolves around three zeroes – zero cost, zero waiting time and zero environmental impact. We want to do to local deliveries what Skype did to telecommunications.”

It all sounds good in theory, but you’re probably more curious to find out what these robots can actually do. So let’s take a look at some of their key features and capabilities.

Can these self-driving delivery robots actually deliver on their promises?

Well, they can. And they can also carry the equivalent of two grocery bags while they’re at it. Moreover, the self-driving delivery robots can get their job done and complete local deliveries within 5-30 minutes of a local shipping facility or retail store.

And the costs should be 10-15 times less than those of current last-mile delivery alternatives. Also, customers will be able to choose a specific delivery time that is convenient for them and track the robot’s location in real-time by using a mobile app.

When the robot arrives, only the app holder will be able to unlock the cargo, a safety feature customers will surely appreciate. It’s important to note that the robots are also overseen by human operators who are ready to step in if something doesn’t go according to plan.

Furthermore, Starship’s self-driving robots can also:

  • Drive autonomously on sidewalks and pavements at speeds up to 4 miles per hour.
  • Avoid any obstacles that are in their way.
  • Blend safely in with human traffic.

So when can we expect to see these robots on the streets? Starship Technologies is still testing and showing prototype robots to interested service partners. The first pilot robot delivery system will be launched in the US, UK and other countries as soon as 2016.

Why did I say this could be a game changer?

While companies such as Google and Amazon are placing their bets on airborne, drone-based delivery methods, Starship sees more opportunity on the ground. Its fleet of practical, CO2 emission-free self-driving delivery robots are quite literally a more down-to-earth approach, one that could open up new opportunities.

For regular folks, it could mean a more affordable and convenient solution for their delivery needs. For businesses, it could mean cutting out the middle man and taking a big step towards creating a more efficient delivery chain.

These robots promise to successfully replace time-consuming door-to-door delivery and deliver goods safely to the shopper’s door, all at a fraction of the cost. We’ll only know for a fact if these small, lightweight, autonomous delivery robots can really get the job done when we’ll get a chance to test them first-hand.

Until then, I want to know if you think Starship’s earthbound delivery robots have a chance to revolutionize home delivery or not. And will they beat the overhyped drone delivery technology?

I’d like to find out what your opinions are on the matter, so feel free to share any thoughts or concerns you might have in the comment section below.

Philipp Kandal