Guest blog: Clean & green last mile delivery that supports innovation in local government
When you say ‘get your groceries delivered by a self-driving robot’ we know it can sound like science fiction, but if you live in Milton Keynes or Northampton, it’s a common place service that many have come to rely on.
Operating in the UK, US, Germany, Estonia, and Finland, Starship robots have travelled over 4 million miles, made more than 3 million deliveries, and completed close to 50 million road crossings in the 7 years we’ve been in operation.
We’re on a mission to help local government provide a service that supports residents, businesses and communities while simultaneously helping to reduce Carbon emissions and improve air quality.
'On demand’ goods, shopping, and food have become the norm. With the ‘last mile’ of delivery being the most expensive and Carbon intensive, the UK government and local authorities are rightly looking at how that increased demand can be met in an ethical and climate friendly way. That’s where we provide a solution.
The operation of our robots is zero emissions, with the overall energy needed to make a delivery coming to about the same as making a cup of tea. If a standard combustion engine had made the deliveries our robots completed, an extra 400,000kg of Carbon would have been produced in the UK. 70% of our customers say that they would have driven to the supermarket if Starship hadn’t been an option.
Carrying up to three bags of shopping, we’re not replacing the weekly ‘big shop’ but providing a convenient way for people to get that mid-week ‘top-up’ shopping or things they’ve run out of without having to pile the kids into the car or go out in the rain.
People have come to rely on the service we provide, but they also just love the robots. We have to be honest; our robots are pretty cute. They’re light-weight, low-speed, and designed to behave like a cautious pedestrian would (so they don’t look at a road and think ‘I can make it if I run…’). They’re very polite (yes, they do talk) and will happily sing you a song as they arrive with your delivery (you can choose a song at check-out) – what seven-year-old wouldn’t love a singing robot birthday cake delivery?
Millions of deliveries in, people still post photos and videos of their robot deliveries, shots of their children meeting the robots and send us drawings and thank you cards on our robots’ return journey.
The buy in from the local community is important to us. As much as Starship’s story in the UK is about emerging tech and innovation, it is also about how that technology can become a much-loved part of the communities we serve. In Milton Keynes alone, more than 11,000 people have joined a social media community to get updates, interact and share robot stories. Our ‘Starship Schools’ initiative builds on our visibility and popularity in the community, we work with local schools to promote STEM and digital in an accessible way.
This ‘buy-in’ and community connection is crucial at a time when the world feels like it is changing very quickly for many people.
Local government is at the forefront of grasping innovation and the opportunities presented by the work Starship does, and there’s huge scope to go further in last-mile if the regulatory framework is right.
Lisa Johnson, UK Director of Public Affairs at Starship Technologies
Local Public Services Innovation: Creating a catalyst for change
techUK, in collaboration with its Local Public Services Committee, has published a new report making the case for enhanced digital innovation adoption across the UK’s local public services to improve citizens’ lives. The report, ‘Local Public Services Innovation: Creating a catalyst for change’