By Parmy Olson
One of Europe’s biggest food-delivery apps, Just Eat, will start testing autonomously-driven robots to bring orders to customer doorsteps in the next few months, part of an exclusive partnership that makes it the first such delivery take-out app to do so.
The robots developed by Estonian startup Starship Technologies drive at a walking pace and can only be unlocked with an access code that customers will get with their order. When the robot is about two minutes away from the front door, it will send customers a smartphone notification, followed by another when it’s at their door. Starship, built by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, says its robots will make all deliveries within 30 minutes.
Just Eat is paying Starship to deploy and monitor six of robots, which are about two-feet high and can cross roads by themselves, in the coming months on behalf of several restaurants in Central London. Most of Just Eat’s customers order from home in the evenings, so many of those confronting the robots for the first time will likely be well-to-do users who can afford to live in the city’s centre.
Just Eat is initially using its first six robots as a trial run this summer, but the company intends to “ramp up” their use in the second half of 2016, according to Just Eat’s chief executive, David Buttress, who believes initial costs of £1 per delivery will go down over time.