The sight of them trundling around the streets of Milton Keynes for the past couple of years has raised many a smile with residents. Now Starship robots are a ‘thing’ in Northampton too, writes Sammy Jones.
S tarship Technologies are the world’s leading provider of autonomous delivery services, and already operate across the US, Estonia, Germany and Denmark, but Northampton is only the second town in the UK to benefit from the service, which launched six years ago.
Starship has teamed up with Co-op to offer the grocery delivery service to some 5,000 households in the town, including those in Wootton and Hardingstone.
Co-op was the first convenience retailer to use the same-day deliveries in the country, and while some people undoubtedly booked a slot for the novelty of having a cute little while robot bring goods to the door, the convenience factor and affordability of the service saw return bookings, and the robots began eating up miles around the new town as they delivered that essential breakfast cereal, or cheeky bottle of fizz.
The brand is also doing great things for the environment; a trip to the supermarket just to pick up a forgotten pasta sauce for tea, or something for the kids’ lunch boxes is an inefficient use of both time and fuel, and releases a significant amount of carbon emission into the atmosphere.
Choosing Starship means that you get to do better things with your time, and the electric powered robots are helping to offset the harmful effects of the emissions associated with the more traditional delivery methods.
As for the threat of vandalism? Each robot is fitted with 10 cameras for monitoring, sirens in case of tampering, and tracking sensors to the nearest inch.
The machines, who are very polite and masterful at manoeuvring, are now a familiar sight as they quietly navigate our paths and green spaces to make their deliveries. The robots move at pedestrian speed, and weigh no more than 100 pounds.
The pandemic strengthened the service, with demand soaring and delivery numbers tripling in recent months as people choose to work from home, or deal with other issues that the pandemic has forced upon us.
Being covid safe and socially-distanced is, for now, an essential part of our daily lives, and these little flag-flying machines make it easy to stay apart; allowing for contactless deliveries.
Isolating or vulnerable? A Starship delivery can keep you connected and your food cupboards filled with none of the risk factors.
But their value for the sick and ill was understood pre-pandemic when a note to say ‘thank you’ was sent by a customer recovering from major surgery who saw the service as a lifeline.
“We are thrilled to expand our service and bring robot delivery to neighbourhoods across Northampton,” said Andrew Curtis, head of UK operations at Starship Technologies.
“We have been humbled by the fantastic reception to our robots from local communities in Milton Keynes over the last two and a half years. This is the next step in our growth ambitions as we look to further roll out our service across the UK in the near future following increasing demand during the pandemic.”
Chris Conway, head of eCommerce at the Co-op, said: “We continue to look for new ways to innovate and expand access to our products and services to deliver a truly compelling offer for consumers. Our partnership with Starship enables Co-op to offer further availability, flexibility and choice to meet community shopping needs for on-demand convenience.
“We have seen big changes in eCommerce this year with new customers using the channel that have never used it before, and seeing the benefits.
He added: “Offering quality and value quickly, easily and conveniently is core to Co-op’s approach – delivering what our members and customers want, when and where they need it.”
Accessing the Starship service in simple, via the Starship Food Delivery app (ios and Android). Choose from a range of favourite food and drink items before dropping a pin where you want the delivery to be sent.
Once ordered, you can track the order in real-time as the robot journeys to its destination via an interactive map, and, when it arrives, you receive an alert and can then meet and unlock your goods via the app.
“We have heard extremely positive feedback about how well loved Starship’s robots are and the benefits they have brought to local neighbourhoods, especially this year with the pandemic,” said councillor Jason Smithers, county council cabinet member for Highways and Place at Northampton City Council, “We’re happy that residents in Northampton now have access to this world leading on-demand delivery service and we’re excited about further expansion.”