Starship announced today that it’s four-wheeled robots now autonomously deliver packages to people at their home and work, in a move that pushes the company beyond food delivery and more into everyday use.
The new service makes Starship something of a middleman in the delivery process. Users download the Starship app and when ordering something like spatulas from Amazon, has the item shipped to a Starship fulfillment center instead of their house. When it arrives at Starship’s facility, the customer is notified and can then schedule the robot delivery to their doorstep or office.
Right now, Starship’s autonomous delivery is only available in a three-mile radius in the town of Milton Keynes in the U.K.. The company says it will be expanding to the Bay Area by the end of this year.
Starship is pitching the service as a way to thwart package theft off your porch or stoop. It certainly isn’t alone in this endeavor. Amazon offers in-trunk or even in-house delivery while you’re away. Walmart and Phrame also enable deliveries to your fridge or car trunk, respectively.
I spoke with Starship CEO, Lex Bayer, who said that his company has 100 robots that have traveled more than 200,000 km and made more than 20,000 autonomous deliveries to date. One stat he shared that surprised me was that in all their deliveries not one of their robots have been vandalized or stolen or had anything stolen from it. It probably helps that their robots are monitored in a central HQ and humans can take over their driving at any time.
Delivery robots are becoming an actual thing… slowly. While rival robot companies like Kiwi are expanding into LA, and Marble continues its march across Texas, true adoption of this technology will hinge on state and city laws. Starship operates in the Bay Area in places like Intuit’s corporate campus, but just to the north, San Francisco has clamped down on commercial robot use.
There is also the question of what will people and towns prefer when it comes to home delivery. Will they want lots of small robots running around on sidewalks, or bigger autonomous delivery vehicles driving down city streets or drones flying overhead?
While those questions seemed like science fiction a few years back, companies like Starship are making them more of a reality we have to deal with (and, to be fair, enjoy the benefits of) right now.