Starship’s Delivery Robot Whirs Its Way to Washington’s Doorsteps
Don’t be surprised if you’re in Washington, D.C., and see some robots whirring along the sidewalks.
Starship Technologies — billed as the world’s first 24/7 on-demand Delivery Robot — is testing delivery robots in a pilot program with Postmates to deliver takeout food from restaurants, groceries and packages — virtually anything you can order online.
According to a report by the local NBC affiliate, “The robots are equipped with sensors designed to prevent them from running into things. They each have a red flag and flashing lights. The only sound they make is the mechanical whirring of their wheels.”
Customers in D.C. “may receive a text message telling them a robot will deliver their meal. The user will be able to track the route of the robot. Then, a second text message will include a link to click to unlock the top of the robot to take the food.” As it settles in the Washington, D.C. market, nearby Virginia just made robotics history as the first US state to pass legislation allowing delivery robots to operate on sidewalks and crosswalks across the state. The new law goes into effect on July 1 and was signed into law by the governor last Friday.
The electric-powered rovers drive on sidewalks at a pedestrian speed (max 6 km/h), can be remote-controlled if autonomous operation fails, and will only be used for relatively short-range local delivery.
The robots are equipped with a sensor suite that includes cameras, GPS and IMU, possibly also other sensors but notably no LIDAR. The robot will have microphones, and speakers, so they can communicate with humans they meet.