Co-op extends autonomous bot delivery service

Co-op has extended its use of autonomous home delivery robots to shoppers in Northampton, using bots from Starship Technologies.

The grocery chain said it had ambitions to use as many as 300 of Starship’s robots by the end of 2021 as it looks for more towns and cities to operate autonomous deliveries.

The company became the first convenience retailer to use same-day robot deliveries in the UK when it teamed-up with Starship Technologies in early 2018, to offer “emission free” online home delivery services in Milton Keynes and surrounding areas including Newport Pagnell and Bletchley.

In Northampton, the service will cover around 5,000 households with contactless deliveries initially from the Co-op food store in Wootton Fields - serving communities in Wootton and Hardingstone - with the robots typically travelling up to three miles from the store, said the firm.

Starship Technologies says its robots have completed over 500,000 commercial autonomous deliveries in local neighbourhoods and university campuses across five countries.

Northampton residents can access groceries through the Starship Food Delivery app (iOS and Android), choosing from a range of more than 1,000 of their favourite food or drink items from the Co-op.

They then “drop a pin” where they want their delivery to be sent, and can watch in real-time as the robot makes its journey via an interactive map.

Once the robot arrives they receive an alert and can then meet and unlock it through the app.

The robots use a combination of sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning to travel on pavements and navigate around any obstacles.

Computer vision-based navigation helps the robots to map their environment to “the nearest inch”, the retailer said.

The most popular things delivered by robot include number one item milk, followed by eggs, bread, bananas and cucumbers.

Chris Conway, head of e-commerce at Co-op, said: “Our partnership with Starship enables Co-op to offer further availability, flexibility and choice to meet community shopping needs for on-demand convenience.”

Andrew Curtis, head of UK operations at Starship Technologies, added: “This is the next step in our growth ambitions as we look to further roll out our services across the UK following increasing demand during the pandemic.”

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