Self-driving robots hitting London streets for new trial

They can carry up to 10kg at a time and have a top speed of 4mph

Aatif Sulleyman
Monday 17 April 2017 13:15 BST
During the trial, human operators will supervise three robots each
During the trial, human operators will supervise three robots each (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)

Hermes has announced a new trial for self-driving delivery robots in the UK.

The courier firm will deploy a number of Starship Technologies’ six-wheeled robots on streets in the London Borough of Southwark.

The autonomous machines, which have a top speed of 4mph, are 55cm tall and 70cm long, and weigh 18kg.

They can carry up to 10kg at a time, with packages stored inside a secure compartment that can be unlocked with a code sent to the customer’s phone.

The robots are already being used by takeaway delivery firm Just Eat in parts of the capital, though Hermes will initially use them for collections rather than distribution.

The machines will be tasked with completing 30-minute collection jobs to see how they cope with challenging targets.

During the trial, the robots will operate within two miles of Hermes’ control centres, and human operators will supervise three robots each.

They’ll be able to do this by monitoring the robots’ on-board cameras and assuming control in challenging situations, such as road crossings.

However, Starship Technologies says one person will be able to supervise up to 100 robots in the future.

Amazon is currently developing delivery drones, but even if the company gets the technology right, there’s no guarantee that the Civil Aviation Authority will actually allow them to take to the skies in the UK.

Land-based delivery bots won’t be held back by such strict regulations, and could also be better-equipped for carrying heavier loads.

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