On the 1st December, after five months of “exhausting” testing, JustEat made its first self-driving robot-delivery with one unsuspecting customer’s Turkish takeaway in Greenwich, London.
Starship Technologies, an Estonia-based robotics startup partnered with the food delivery giant, have been testing the 'ground-drones' across US and European cities since late 2015.
The world’s first takeaway robot delivery was made by a small six-wheeled pavement bot that sent the customer a text once outside her house. The customer then simply had to click on a link sent to her to open the robot’s hatch and access her food.
Simone, who apparently enjoyed her falafel and lamb cutlets, is expected to be the first among many customers in Greenwich to receive their orders by robot, with plans afoot to expand the initiative across London next year.
A first in robotic food delivery, JustEat’s delivery-bot will not be the only unmanned vehicle on society’s streets in the near future. From Domino's pizzas in New Zealand to a Chinese takeaway in Scotland, plans for flying drone delivery are underway - held back only by the aviation authorities.
2016 marks a momentous year for automated technology. Amazon applied for a patent for a drone to deliver items directly to users based on their location; Navya raised $34 million for its driverless shuttle buses; NuTonomy launched the world’s first public trial of a self-driving taxi service in Singapore; and Zipline raised $25 million for automated drones that deliver medical goods such blood and vaccines.
What impact will this have on the future of low-wage delivery staff? Moreover, How will these technologies reconfigure the space in which we live - are we to expect futuristic scenes of delivery-bots and drones taking to the pavement and skies?
This signal was spotted in the flesh by Samuel Smith:
Just met my first delivery robot in the street. Being escorted while they don't have permission in London. Made by @StarshipRobots. #signalofchange @FuturesCentre
@sam_w_smith @FuturesCentre Hello Sam, glad to meet you too! Please note, our robots operate legally: we always have approval and work closely with local authorities. Also we are accompanied by Handlers who take notes on social interactions as we are being trialled and drive autonomously most of the time.