Self-driving robots to start delivering parcels in London

Courier company Hermes has teamed up with Starship Technologies to create a self-driving robot that can deliver parcels door-to-door. Hermes ran initial tests in Germany last year, and is now conducting a more thorough test of the robot in the London borough of Southwark.

The robot in question has already completed a successful food delivery last year, when JustEat partnered with Starship. So we know the technology can work – this latest trial is about seeing if it can work for a courier service.

In the Hermes press release, CEO Carole Woodhead says: “Starship Technologies is a highly innovative and pioneering firm …. We can already see first-hand the success they’ve had with food deliveries in London, and we are excited to team up with them in a bid to revolutionise the home delivery marketplace.”

Going where a drone can't

Hermes clients will be able to book a robot to turn up within a half-hour window to collect their parcel and deliver it to a nearby destination. At present the robots can only travel within a two-mile radius of the control centre where they're recharged. 

The unit has nine cameras on board to make sure it’s going in the right direction, six wheels for stabilisation, and can move at a top speed of four miles per hour. Your parcel (up to 10kg) will be securely contained in a compartment that can be locked using a dedicated smartphone app. 

Hermes hopes the robots will eventually become an alternative to drones, and they could be especially useful in cities that have tight airspace restrictions and where delivery drones aren't allowed.

The long-term plan is that the robots will be able to operate 99% autonomously, meaning a fleet of robots could be remotely monitored and maintained easily.

You can see the courier-bot in action in the short video below…

Andrew London

Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.