Robots rolled-out on the streets of Northampton on Wednesday, 25 November as Co-op expands its use of autonomous home delivery in partnership with Starship Technologies, as well as revealing that it has ramped-up its same-day online and click and collect grocery service which will now be available from more than 1,000 stores by the end of this year.
Co-op has ambitions to use as many as 300 of Starship’s robots by the end of 2021 as it looks for more towns and cities to operate autonomous deliveries after launching in Milton Keynes, and then Northampton.
Co-op became the first convenience retailer to use same-day robot deliveries in the UK when it teamed-up with Starship Technologies in early 2018 to offer emission free online home delivery services.
The autonomous service will now expand to a second UK town, Northampton, serving around 5,000 households with contactless deliveries initially from the Co-op food store in Wootton Fields (NN4 6DY) serving communities in Wootton and Hardingstone, with the robots typically travelling up to three miles from the store. Orders are fulfilled through the Co-op online shop and through its partnerships with Starship Technologies, Deliveroo, Buymie (Bristol) and Pinga (East London) in as little as under one hour, and up to seven days in advance.
The retailer’s approach sees its stores act as micro distribution hubs locally, with orders picked from local Co-op stores – so its high street stores benefit from any increase in online demand.
Northampton residents can access groceries delivered by robot through the Starship Food Delivery app (iOSand Android). They then drop a “pin” where they want their delivery to be sent, and can watch in real-time as the robot makes its journey via an interactive map. Once the robot arrives, they receive an alert and can then meet and unlock it through the app.
Demand for Starship’s robot service has continued to soar during the COVID-19 pandemic, with delivery numbers for Co-op products tripling in Milton Keynes alone in recent months – the robots provide contactless deliveries, which allow people, including the elderly and more vulnerable that may be spending more time at home, to get their groceries delivered straight to their door.
The robots use a combination of sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning to travel on pavements and navigate around any obstacles. Computer vision-based navigation helps the robots to map their environment to the nearest inch, and as they are battery powered they help reduce both pollution and traffic congestion levels.
The most popular items delivered by robot include: