Self-driving robots to deliver takeaway meals on wheels to Londoners

Self-driving robots to deliver takeaway meals on wheels to Londoners
Takeaway delivery drivers have become a common sight on roads up and down the country.

But motorists in London will soon be spotting some very different delivery vehicles on the streets of the capital.

Because later this month online food order and delivery service Just Eat plans to begin using a fleet of self-driving robots to take meals to customers across the city.

The six-wheelers feature nine on-board cameras, an array of sensors and a GPS tracker to enable them to navigate their way between a restaurant and a customer’s address.

READ MORE: BMW announces self-driving partnership to get vehicles into production within five years

But hungry customers will have to be patient as the robots will be travelling at just 4mph.

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That, however, is not much slower than the 10mph average which, according to a recent report, traffic has slowed to in some urban areas as a result of congestion.

Vehicles using some bus routes in London, the report added, have been slowed to almost “walking pace” by heavy traffic.   

When the robots arrive at their destination, customers will be asked to type the code that has been given to them on to a keypad. That will enable them to open the robot’s lid and take out the meal inside.

London-based Just Eat’s chief executive, David Buttress, says the initiative will help takeaway restaurants meet customers’ demand for meals if there is a shortage of delivery drivers during busy periods.

READ MORE: UK minicab firm eyes driverless car tests

The cost of delivering a meal within a three-mile radius of a restaurant, Just Eat adds, will only be about £1.

To prevent the vehicles being stolen or interfered with they are equipped with movement sensors that send alerts back to a control room.

A two-way audio communication system, meanwhile, enables staff in the control room to keep tabs on their robots.

The robots have been developed by Starship Technologies. Tests carried out at Greenwich in south-east London, Glastonbury and Milton Keynes over the last eight months have seen 30 of them clocking up around 5,000 miles.

Starship Technologies’ chief operating officer, Allan Martinson, says none of the robots have been lost or involved in any accidents resulting in injury during the tests.

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