In partnership with Bedford Borough Council, Co-op and Starship Technologies will use delivery robots to deliver to 20,000 households in Bedford in the UK.
The robots have been designed to be lightweight and travel at the speed of a pedestrian (no faster than 6.4km/h). 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 2.5cm. Starship’s robots are powered by zero-carbon electricity, with an average delivery for a Starship robot consuming as much energy as boiling a kettle to make one cup of tea. Orders are made through the Starship food delivery app with groceries picked fresh in local Co-op stores and delivered in approximately one hour.
Bedford and Kempston residents will be able to choose from a range of grocery items, schedule their delivery, then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can watch in real time via an interactive map as the robot makes its journey to them. Once the robot arrives, they receive an alert and can meet and unlock it through the app.
The groceries will come from three local Co-op stores in the area (Goldington, Queens Drive and Kempston) to customers’ doors via a fleet of Starship’s autonomous robots. Co-op and Starship already operate autonomous robot deliveries together in communities across Milton Keynes, Northampton and Cambridgeshire. Since launching commercial deliveries in 2018, Starship’s robots have reportedly traveled more than 6.4 million kilometers and safely completed more than 3.5 million deliveries. Around the world, the robots make 140,000 road crossings every day, equivalent to three road crossings every second.
Chris Conway, e-commerce director of Co-op, said, “Co-op is committed to exploring new and innovative ways to serve our members and customers; they lead busy lives and so ease, speed and convenience is at the heart of our approach. We are delighted to be able to expand our partnership to areas of Bedford from today – as a convenience retailer, the ability to come into stores will always be important to customers, but we also know that shoppers want flexible and convenient options online and so we are focused on providing what our customers want and need, how ever and wherever they choose to shop with us.”
Dave Hodgson, mayor of Bedford Borough, said, “I’m delighted that the Council and Starship are working together with Co-op for innovative solutions to grocery delivery – it is exciting to see the robots on our streets. It has the potential to make life easier for thousands of residents across Bedford and Kempston while also reducing congestion. Hopefully the trial will be a success which would allow us to extend the benefits of quick and easy deliveries to more people across the borough.”
Andrew Curtis, head of UK operations at Starship Technologies, said, “We are extremely excited to be bringing the Starship service to Bedford and Kempston, offering the benefits of on-demand, autonomous grocery delivery to local residents. Our robots have been very well received and integrated seamlessly as part of local communities across Milton Keynes, Northampton and Cambourne, and we are confident they will be similarly welcomed in Bedford and Kempston. We are thrilled to be working with Bedford Borough Council and Co-op on this and look forward to further collaboration in the near future to roll the service out further.”