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Delivery robots now available to Cambridge residents under new pilot scheme

15 November 2022

Food delivery robots will be taking to the streets of Cambridge from Thursday (17 November), as part of a new pilot scheme by Starship Technologies, in partnership with the Co-op and enabled by Cambridgeshire County Council.

After receiving a thumbs-up from shoppers following the Cambourne pilot that started earlier this year, the decision was made by the Highways and Transport Committee to welcome the robots to the historic city streets of Cambridge.

The collaboration will be available to 12,200 households within the Cherry Hinton, Queen Edith, parts of Romsey and Coleridge areas of Cambridge. Orders can be made through the Starship food delivery app, which is available for download on iOS and Android, with groceries picked fresh in local Co-op stores on Perne Road and Cherry Hinton Road.

Cambridge residents can order their delivery to arrive in under an hour and watch the robot travel in real-time via an interactive map. Once the robot arrives, residents receive an alert and can meet and unlock it through the app.

Since May 2022, Starship’s robots have carried out many thousands of deliveries in Cambourne alone, with more and more people are using the service to save time and fit shopping around their busy lives. Introducing the robots to Cambourne has resulted in an estimated 7,798 miles of car journeys saved in the first month and a 1,670kg reduction in CO2 emissions. Reception has been positive, with 98% of people saying they would recommend the delivery robots to their friends.

Cllr Alex Beckett, chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Highways and Transport Committee, said: “We are excited to see how the robot delivery service integrates into the day-to-day lives of the residents of Cambridge. The advancement of technology has been a backbone of Cambridge for many years now and this is just another step towards a cleaner more sustainable future.

“As well as a reduction in short car journeys, the robots will provide assistance to working families and the elderly who struggle to leave their houses to go shopping. The pilot also gives us a chance to showcase how history and technology can combine throughout the city streets as we become the leading light in the future of personal, eco-robotic delivery services.”

Andrew Curtis, UK Operations Manager at Starship Technologies, added: “We are delighted to be expanding our on-demand, quick and sustainable grocery delivery service to an additional 12,200 residents in Cambridge. Our friendly robots have been very well received, and as a result are actively reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions in the areas they operate in. We are very much looking forward to working closely with Cambridgeshire County Council and Co-op, and hope to further expand our service over the coming years.”

Chris Conway, eCommerce Director, Co-op, said: “Co-op is committed to exploring new and innovative ways to increase access to its products and services. Our members and customers lead busy lives and so ease, speed and convenience is a cornerstone of our approach. Co-op stores are well placed in local communities to provide quick and easy home deliveries – whether a full shop or last-minute top-ups. We are pleased that the trial has expanded in Cambridge and, has been seen to contribute to the reduction in unnecessary car journeys while providing flexible options online for shoppers in our communities.”

The robots are battery powered, lightweight and travel at the speed of a pedestrian (no faster than 4mph). They use a combination of sensors, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to travel on pavements and navigate around any obstacles, while computer vision-based navigation helps them map their environment to the nearest inch. When the robots recognise a wheelchair user they stop at a safe distance and give way if necessary. If the robot is still unsure, they will be taken over remotely by a human operator who can communicate with the pedestrian or wheelchair user.

An average delivery for a Starship robot consumes as little energy as boiling a kettle to make just one cup of tea, thereby delivering tangible environmental benefits compared to driving to a store.

starship robot
A Starship robot in Perne Road