Starship Technologies has announced its first US partnerships, teaming with DoorDash on food delivery tests in Redwood City, Calif. and with Postmates to augment its on-demand courier service in Washington D.C.
Indeed, 2017 is shaping up to be a banner year for delivery robots. Just days after announcing a $17.2 million seed funding round from German automaker Daimler AG, Starship Technologies has announced its first commercial partners in the United States.
Starship, which was featured on the Robotics Trends delivery robot panel at CES 2017, will start making test deliveries in the coming weeks within a four-mile-wide area in both cities. DoorDash and Postmates customers will see the delivery robots pop up as an option in the respective apps, and the robot delivery will cost the same as a typical delivery.
Starship’s delivery robots can carry roughly 20 lbs. Customers will be able to track their deliveries and will receive a notification when the robot has arrived at their location. Deliveries will take anywhere from 15-30 minutes.
In a blog announcing the partnership, DoorDash co-founder and chief product officer Stanley Tang says Starship’s delivery robots are better suited for carrying a small meal down the street, rather than a few pizzas.
“We expect to use robots to deliver these smaller, short-distance orders that Dashers often avoid, thereby freeing up Dashers to fulfill the bigger and more complex deliveries that often result in more money for them. We also plan to explore using robots to bring food from a restaurant to a local hub: with this approach, Dashers would no longer need to park outside a restaurant or wait for the food, but could simply meet a robot at a parking lot to pick up the food and take it directly to the customer. Ultimately, we think we can use robots to improve the Dasher experience and make the deliveries they do even easier and more efficient.”
“We don’t have a grand vision that robots would be the ultimate delivery mechanism or something,” Postmates Senior Vice President Holger Luedorf said in a statement. “It’s far too early to say. We do want to gather a lot of data.”
Starship’s ground-delivery robot are already being tested in nearly 60 cities worldwide, and some of its international partners include Just Eat, Hermes Parcel Delivery, Media Markt, Swiss Post and Wolt.
Ahti Heinla, co-founder, CEO and CTO of Starship, told Robotics Trends at CES 2017 that robotic delivery will become regular in 2017. Today’s announcement certainly appears to be a step in the right direction to making that come true in the US. Starship, of course, faces far fewer regulations than delivery drones, so expect ground-based delivery robots to be here sooner than you think.
“One thing that hasn’t changed is the cost of manned delivery methods,” Heinla told Robotics Trends at CES 2017. “The human is your personal servant. Never mind that a driver has 200 packages in a van. While parking it, knocking on your door, finding a place to leave it – for those minutes, they are your personal servant.”
“You are paying for that – one second is one cent; very roughly, robots are cheaper,” Heinla said. “We can get it down – it’s just a question of time.”