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Robotics United Kingdom

Self-Driving Delivery Robots To Hit Sidewalks of London In 2016 (thestack.com) 98

An anonymous reader writes: Estonian start-up Starship Technologies is taking a different approach to automated delivery with a ground-based self-driving robot. Headquartered in London and launched by two ex-Skype founders, the robotics company has unveiled its suburban pavement-strolling bot which can travel at a speedy 4mph. Starship claims that the 40-pound machine could deliver packages in 5 to 30 minutes from local retailers and restaurants. The company argues that a grounded approach to automated delivery will remove some of the safety concerns linked to flying drone systems, as the robot is much less likely to cause harm.
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Self-Driving Delivery Robots To Hit Sidewalks of London In 2016

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  • amusing they call themselves 'starship technologies' but maybe it's because the earth is a spaceship.

    either way, I welcome our robotic overlords :)

  • 40 pounds? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tgibson ( 131396 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @11:15PM (#50860897) Homepage

    What's to keep these from being carried to the nearest alley and a relieved of their payloads?

    • It's in the UK, plenty of surveillance.

      • Re: 40 pounds? (Score:5, Informative)

        by tgibson ( 131396 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @11:20PM (#50860915) Homepage

        It's in the UK, plenty of surveillance.

        That doesn't deter, does it? Isn't there a lot of crime [police.uk] in London despite the surveillance?

    • by youn ( 1516637 )

      Cameras, GPS, constant communication with base would mitigate loss but I guess it could be an acceptable cost of doing business

      • I look forward to the stories of how this failed and how no one could have ever anticipated all of the theft and vandalism problems.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Vandalisms and theft happens, yet it is still possible to park your car or your bike in most places without getting it vandalized or stolen.

          The reason society works is because most people aren't assholes.

          • Vandalisms and theft happens, yet it is still possible to park your car or your bike in most places without getting it vandalized or stolen.

            If you park your car with a portable GPS, or an iPhone, sitting in plain view on the dashboard, I bet you'll have a different experience.

            The reason society works is because most people aren't assholes.

            So, you've never been to New York City, have you?

        • This could be solved by making it slightly sturdier, perhaps 200-400lb (instead of easy-to-carry-away 40lb), perhaps a metal cage to protect bits, a taser for those enthusiastic pedestrians... and in extreme cases, perhaps a gun...for those termination missions (though then it would have to be made to look like Schwarzenegger :-).

      • Cameras, GPS, constant communication with base would mitigate loss

        How? The GPS will be on the robot, not the payload.

        I was once in a cafe with a guy who left his bike outside unlocked. He said it could not be stolen because he could watch it through the window. Then someone came along and rode it away.

    • Make this like cars, but more compact. Make it as heavy as cars, sturdy, and have a loud alarm that lets people around know someone is tampering with bot (like tampering with a car).

    • The articles says that the high res cameras and GPS will be a deterrent. One could imagine thieves wearing balaclavas, but still things like gate-analysis or stand-off iris imaging will put the thieves at risk of being spotted by other cameras later and then identified in the future. Perhaps it will also employ something like an electric eel defense.

      In any case the economics of this are odd. They state that it will allow deliveries for $1 which they claim is 15 times less than a human driver. Empirical

    • What's to keep these from being carried to the nearest alley and a relieved of their payloads?

      What's to stop you hijacking a parcel delivery van? Or mugging a little old lady for her pension? Or robbing a bank?

      • What's to keep these from being carried to the nearest alley and a relieved of their payloads?

        What's to stop you hijacking a parcel delivery van? Or mugging a little old lady for her pension? Or robbing a bank?

        Because these involve human victims, that in some cases might put up a fight. A court would take such cases far more seriously than hijacking a robitic cart. As would the police - I can imagine a takeaway owner complaining to the police that his pizza was nicked on the way to Acacia Avenue and the police laughing their heads off, like "WTF did you expect!".

    • What's to keep these from being carried to the nearest alley and a relieved of their payloads?

      Nothing. And kicked to pieces too.

      I live in the UK, and someone said it won't happen because of the number of surveillance cameras; that's rubbish, because the percentage of ground coverage outside of town centres and private premises (which is what is involved here) is tiny. In any case there is a huge difference between being on a security camera and someone in authority seeing it. Muggers don't give a shit about security cameras - they will dance in front of them.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @11:22PM (#50860923)

    To precent mischief future bots will have to deter theft.... one suggested sticker:

    DELIVERY BOT CARRIES LESS THAN 2GB OF RAM AT ALL TIMES.

  • I can see a lot of people getting hurt because they run/walk into them (not looking up from their phone), or because they just freak-out, or assume it will move out of their way (will it, or will it just stop and wait for the way to clear?)
    • Re:Lawsuits... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @11:54PM (#50860999) Homepage

      By the same token, I can also see some degree of hostility and mischief ... I mean, I'm sorry, but what do you figure the odds are someone won't give it a good kick or otherwise find ways to abuse it?

      And I'll tell you what, I aint getting out of the way of no damned robot; so if it isn't bigger than me, it better be faster than me.

      Mark my words, people will treat this like shit on their shoes. They sure as heck won't be polite to it.

      • [......] what do you figure the odds are someone won't give it a good kick or otherwise find ways to abuse it?

        This is London we're talking about, so it's guaranteed that will happen. A lot. The other thing that's guaranteed to happen is they'll get stolen - then probably sold as scrap.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I find it interesting how different cultures react to robots. The Japanese love them and treat them with some degree of respect. There is some evidence that most of Europe and Canada is safe for robots, but not the US [iflscience.com]. I wouldn't like to be metal in the UK either.

        Why is it that in certain cultures there are otherwise seemingly normal people who react with violence towards machines? Is it just machines, would they kick over a mobility scooter if the rider didn't get out of their way? If they owned a robot wo

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      They should be okay unless they deploy it in Philly.

      • They should be okay unless they deploy it in Philly.

        The first thing I thought of was that these would be fun to skitch off of.

    • That's why you really should get the Starship app on your IPhone! It notifies you with a big splash "Robot ahead" if you come near one, so that you still can keep looking at your phone. The paid pro version even makes the robots avoid you instead of you having to avoid them. Only works if GPS enabled.

  • immobility (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @12:16AM (#50861057) Journal

    the robotics company has unveiled its suburban pavement-strolling bot which can travel at a speedy 4mph. Starship claims that the 40-pound machine could deliver packages in 5 to 30 minutes from local retailers and restaurants.

    You know, you all are some lazy-ass motherfuckers.

    • You know, you all are some lazy-ass motherfuckers.

      Or the exact opposite. So NOT lazy that they're busy working at what they specialize all day, that it makes more sense to use their time that way while someone else who specializes in delivering food or office supplies spends their time sparing the busy people from having to stop what they're doing.

    • Seriously. 4 MPH with a maximum delivery time of 30 minutes (let's say constrained by battery lifetime) gives a 2 mile radius at most... that's just fucking ridiculous!
  • I wonder if these robots need to have breakable encryption ... if the government can't learn about what they're delivering and where to, what's the point?
  • The Dalek problem (Score:3, Informative)

    by moonlandingchap ( 3934575 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @03:36AM (#50861535)
    Knowing the streets of London, there are lots of kurbs, sunken manhole covers, uneven paving slabs and just hundreds of road crossings. This thing better have some clever way of keeping moving over quite rough ground without getting stuck. Meanwhile if it's carrying anything worth delivering then someone will try to have it away. Also most Londoners don't live on the ground floor, how does it get the attention of the target person to come and meet it in the street? The project will probably fail and the police will hijack it and use them as camera drones. Maybe even parking enforment.
  • by YuppieScum ( 1096 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @03:50AM (#50861565) Journal
    London has pavements.
  • How long before the Muslims use one to deliver a bomb?
    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      Oh for fucks sake. You know why we don't have bombs going off every day. Because there are to first order zero fucking bombers. There are RC cars, plain cars, Quad copters, rc copters going back more than 20 years, taxis, plain old walking around and shit. Yet do you see bombs everywhere. How the fuck is this different from a courier bomb. Fed ex really don't check. Yet we get none.

      Because Terrorists are a lie.
      • by tomxor ( 2379126 )
        Amused by your outrage of the overperception of terrorism - ignoring the parent posters grotesque use of the word "Muslim" as a synonym for "terrorist".
        • by delt0r ( 999393 )
          I was deliberately ignoring that.

          But your right. I am outraged. The first thing these stupid people say "OMG a Terrorist could use it!", as if they can't already use the alternative. If it something new. Jumping at every shadow. I remember when it was communists. Seriously you got into real trouble if you didn't say USSR/Communism==evil.

          The shadows stay the same. Only the labels change.
          • by tomxor ( 2379126 )

            The first thing these stupid people say "OMG a Terrorist could use it!", as if they can't already use the alternative. If it something new. Jumping at every shadow.

            Yes, it's silly when people don't consider the dangers of new things with the perspective of existing things... but what i find interesting is that most people are polarised on the subject.... to one of the straw men which can be summed up as: "technology kills people" || "people kill people".

            When i think it's reasonable to say that reality is far more grey, and the old saying "With great power comes great responsibility" is the most truthful... and frankly a 18Kg pavement bound self driving box while possi

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

      There you go again - letting your rampant fear and xenophobia drag you into besmirching over 1.6 billion people, publicly, with absolutely no thought behind it what so ever. Considering there have been more bombs planted in London by Christians than Muslims, you are simply explaining that you don't know your history or religion, yet are so sure in your intrinsic awesomeness that you don't need silly things like facts to make a disgusting, ignorant assertion.

      You really are pathetic. I thought you were gett

  • Self-driving delivery robots hit the streets of Verbania in 2010 and it just ended up on the local paper. Couldn't get anyone to invest in it. Why?
    • Couldn't get anyone to invest in it. Why?

      Because 2010. This is 2015... free moneh for everyone!*

      *tech startups with "autonomous", "app", "cloud", "shiny", and "daffodil" in their descriptions.

  • Can they be hacked via WiFi/Bluetooth/whatnot?
    I can imagine some people re-programming these for a detour into somebody garage for looting.
    Or simply having them drive around in circles or chug along the highway, sprayed with graffity sprayed all over them. ...
    Countless possibilities. :-)
    The first thing my buddy's gonna get when amazon sends out it's delivery drones is a shotgun. :-)

  • So cheap! That's about 61 US dollars at the moment!
  • Sorry is this tech only for delivering to American Tourists because they're the only people in London who use the term sidewalk
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You know what else moves at 4mph on a pavement. The elderly in mobility scooters, potentially we could give them souped up mobility scouters and let them be low speed couriers around London.

    For some reason I find that more frightening than a robot doing the deliveries..

  • by Gonoff ( 88518 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @08:52AM (#50862259)

    Outside the USA, there are very few sidewalks and none in London.

    As English is not only our first language but it goes back centuries, we have pavements.

  • Only a few remaining bugs [shop4world.com] need to be worked out.

  • > Self-Driving Delivery Robots To Hit Sidewalks of London In 2016

    Why can't they have good enough collision avoidance so that they DO NOT hit the sidewalks?
  • Flying drones will only risk injuring someone if they have a catastrophic failure and just happen to land on someone when they fall to earth.

    The land-drones will be in very close proximity to people the entire time they are operating creating numerous opportunity for injury on a constant basis. Way more people will be injured by these things than by flying drones.

    Plus, people will just kick them over when they are in their way.

    • I am sure that the creators of this bot have considered all of these real-world scenarios.

      I am interested to see how it works out. It seems to be a really good idea.

      After all, if I can get away with not tipping for deliveries that would make me really happy :)

  • If these things don't drive along the road, but instead use the sidewalks, it constitutes the UK-equivalent of a private taking of a public good.

    Sidewalks are for pedestrians, and sometimes bicycles (depending upon local laws &/or enforcement).

  • Yes, the lid is locked, but what stops anyone from following these bots with a van, open the side door, break the antenna off, and then grab that whole thing for disassembly at home? Or what if there are distortions (accidentally or intentionally) in the radio transmission that send that robot into a ditch for easy pickup? What engineers better spend their time on is redesigning living quarters to be walkable with plenty of services offered. That way we do not need dumb ideas like grocery delivery robots an

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